Sunday Scripture Readings

TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME, SEPTEMBER 10 Isaiah 35: 4-7a; Psalm 146: 7, 8-9, 9-10; James 2-1-5; Mark 7: 31-37 "Can you hear me now?" This has been a popular slogan for a particular cellular phone company in recent years. Usually it would depict a man wandering through various out-of-the-way locations checking his phone connection. Those who use cellular phones (and that seems include most of us) know that one has to be in the right place for the signal to come through clearly. In a sense "Can you hear me now?" might also be the eternal message of God to human beings throughout history. As Scripture relates again and again, our ears and hearts need to be open to the divine call in the right place and time. This is dramatically demonstrated in the miracle story related from Mark’s Gospel this weekend. It is unique in the Gospel tradition. Here Jesus is in Gentile territory that remained home to many Jews. The people brought to him a man who was deaf and mute. In the oral culture of the time one was especially disadvantaged if he were deaf. The ability to hear, especially God’s word, symbolized oneness to God. Jesus brings the man away from the crowd. Possibly he knew that only as one finds the right space away from others that only can God speak. He puts his fingers into the man’s ears and, spitting, touches his tongue with his own saliva. These reflect an intimate contact with the man, not only physically but also spiritually. In a sense this foreshadows the very sacramental action of the Church in which human touch as well as created realities become the means of grace. Finally Jesus says "Ephphatha," the Aramaic word meaning "be opened." The fact that Mark, who composed his Gospel in Greek, retains this word in the original language may mean that it conveys a deeper significance. Human beings of themselves cannot hear God. It takes the divine initiative to enable us to discern his call and thus be able to share God’s message. The people’s reaction to the cure of the deaf man is also striking. Jesus has ordered them to not tell anyone, but they still felt compelled to proclaim it. Why would Jesus desire to keep this event under wraps? From the context of Mark’s entire Gospel, evangelist’s emphasis is that in Christ the prophetic message heard in the oracle of Isaiah 35 is being fulfilled now. To the frightened, to the weak, to the blind, as well as to those deaf and mute, "here is your God" acting in a final and decisive way in Christ. But to truly understand him, one must experience his cross and resurrection. The openness that God offers in Christ should clear our own ears and hearts so that we might utter praise and thanks. The problem is that so often we listen to God’s word as if it comes from the past. Ultimately it is a word that orients us eternally for the future, yet always spoken in the present. In a sense the Gospel is always God’s word made fresh! And if we are open to what God calls us to do and be, we can never be closed to neither the needs nor the person of others. This is the practical lesson the Letter of James today. Our very worship communities should never make distinctions between the haves and the have-nots. These are attitudes the world may make but our God calls us to put these aside and recognize that we are all poor without his love and mercy that alone make us rich. Inspired by today’s Gospel passage, there is a beautiful ritual action at the completion of the baptismal ceremony usually for an infant. Here the priest or deacon touches the ears and lips of the newly baptized and prays: "May Jesus soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father." Rooted in the sacraments, this is our personal invitation to be open to vocation-past, present, and future. Here God is asking us, not once, but throughout our lives: "Can you hear me now?" Father Heier is director of the archdiocesan Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and is pastor of All Saints Parish in University City.

A subscription is required to access this content.

Current online and print subscribers, click here to login and view this article.

Please click here to subscribe to the St. Louis Review. You may subscribe to the online edition only or both the online and print editions.

If you already have a subscription and are still unable to access this information, please contact the St. Louis Review.

Why does the St. Louis Review require a subscription to access content online? (Click to view).

No votes yet