The conclusion of this Sunday’s gospel passage proclaims: He does all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
It is this proclamation that became the basis of 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 to God’s Holy Name. The context of these words in the Gospel 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 that we might be saved from our deafness to the voice of the Lord revealing his will for us, and to be saved from the consequences of our silence in the absence of God’s truth and wisdom.
It is important for us that the notion of Ephphatha not remain 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! 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 will hear and speak for the child—a prayer that they and the godparents of the child will hear God’s Word in their own lives and then speak the teachings of Jesus Christ to the children in their most formative years. This is a great challenge to parents and teachers as we begin the school year—to be clear about what Jesus requires of us to be his followers and strong in speech when a lesson needs to be learned.
Ephphetha 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 speak—even better, to articulate—their 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 at the time of Baptism. Finally, we must realize in moments of doubt about what we have tried to instill and to share, that people of the Gospel came to Jesus and so we must also come to him even later in life, because it is HIS Ephphatha, not ours. Jesus has power that transcends time and space to open deaf ears and to heal mouths that have become mute to the proclamation of faith. What happened at Baptism and the example we give over years can have its effect beyond our own years. To everything, then, that confounds us along life’s path let us say with Jesus—Ephphetha!—Be Opened!