The conclusion of this Sunday’s Gospel passage from St. Mark proclaims:
“He does all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
It is this proclamation that became the basis for the Ephphatha prayer during Baptism, which asks God to bless our ears that we may hear God’s word and to bless our mouths that we may give praise and glory to God’s name. The context of the passage is of course the healing by Jesus of a deaf man with a speech impediment. All of this is meant for us to understand in a spiritual application, namely, that we might be saved from our own deafness to the voice of the Lord revealing his will for us, and saved from the consequences of our silence in the absence of God’s truth and wisdom.
In all of the above the notion of Ephphatha remains too lofty, too filled with piety and lacking in practical application for our daily lives. So let’s land on it and bring it home! Here it is: when we pray the Ephphatha over a baby and touch its ears and mouth, it is really a prayer of blessing for the parents who hear and speak for the childa prayer that they and the godparents might hear the word of God first of all in their own lives and then to speak the teachings of Christ to the child in its most formative years. This is a great challenge to parents and teachers as we begin a school yearto be clear about what Jesus requires of us to be his true followers and strong in speech when a lesson needs to be learned.
Ephphatha is also a prayer for our youth and young adults that now their ears may be opened to God’s voice in their lives and that their mouths might be made to speakeven better, to articulatetheir faith in the midst of all peer pressure and peer influence. And for those who have flown the nest to colleges and careers, a prayer that their lives might give honor to the faith and religion shared with them since the time of their baptism.
With this Sunday’s Gospel Good News, I can’t help but note its implication and timeliness for the approaching visit our Holy Father Francis to these United States, for the October gathering of Pope Francis with bishops from around the world to hold a Synod on the Family in Rome, and for the much anticipated beginning of a Jubilee Year of Mercy. We must pray Jesus’ Ephphatha upon it all! Blessing coming to each and all of us, to the Church and to the world at large, is completely reliant upon having ears open to hear God’s Word and having mouths to proclaim our faithto the glory of God’s Name.
Finally, we must realize in moments of doubt about what we have tried to instill and to share, that like the people of the Gospel we go to Jesus because it is HIS Ephphatha not ours. And his power to open deaf ears and heal mouths that have become mute transcends time and space. It can have its effect beyond our years. To everything, then, that confounds us along life’s path let us say with JesusEphphatha! BE OPENED!