Posted by: soysi | September 4, 2015

“Ephphatha!” (23rd Sunday, Year B / Mk 7: 31-37)

epthI went to a secluded and quiet place one afternoon, and stayed there for about an hour. At around six in the evening, I decided to take leave. When I got back to the car and turned on the ignition key, I was hearing nothing but a faint ‘click’ sound. The car won’t start. Battery problem, I thought. I let the mechanic in me takeover and tried to figure out the problem and fix it. I failed. An hour passed, and darkness was starting to set in. Time to call one of my SVD confreres for help, I said to myself. I was about to press a number on my phone when a lady appeared. After the initial greetings, she said that she was selling body care products, and asked me if I could buy a bottle of men’s shampoo. I inquired about the price and was told that a 200ml bottle would cost KSh5,000. Too expensive, I said. She explained that it was a jacked-up price because the proceeds would go to charity. I doubted her words and refused to buy. Sensing futility in her effort, she then took out a gun from her handbag and told me that she was robbing me. When she pointed the gun to my face, I realized that my life was at stake. I was utterly terrified. Trembling with fear, it was then that I finally woke up. A bad dream it was.

How would we feel if all the evil things that befall us were nothing but a case of bad dream? What would we do if, upon waking from sleep, everything would be okay again — problems solved, fears gone, illness healed? Sadly, life is not a dream. And no matter how we keep on dreaming, we would still have to wake up and face the hard and agonizing realities of life.

In some ways, life is an endless stream of sink or swim. Problems abound and we just have to grin and bear it. The worst thing however is that we are clueless on how to turn our predicaments around and change them for the better. And even if we are somehow able to steer to the direction we want, there is no telling as to when we shall finally hit the breaking point. We could easily miscalculate our strengths and weaknesses, and then feel helpless and lose hope in the process.

The deaf man in today’s gospel represents anyone of us. Our hearing impairment could be both figurative and literal as we are unable to hear God’s voice in the midst of so many troubling and distracting noises in our hearts.

An old wise African man once said that no one should die with smile on his/her lips. Happiness should be passed on to others—children, grandchildren, friends, strangers—in life and in death. The point is that we should not go to the grave with un-shared and un-given blessings. While we have the time and the opportunity, we must reach out to others in happiness, peace, and forgiveness.

It is a wonderful message, but are we able to take heed? Are we not made deaf by worries, fears, and pains? We are all deaf to some extent, and our level of deafness depends on how far we have been led astray by voices that confuse and control us.

“Ephphatha!” —“Be opened!”— Jesus commanded, and the deaf man’s ears were opened. His speech impediment was gone, and he began speaking plainly.

Our sense of hearing affects our speech. When we are unable to listen we shall be incapable of speaking. These two faculties, though distinct, are intertwined, knotted together, twins at birth. We could say things to God, but we really should listen to Him first. We demand that He should address our needs and take us out of trouble. We really should give Him more of our time —in worship, thanksgiving, praise, and service.

The gospel says that, upon leaving the district of Tyre, Jesus went to the Sea of Galilee by way of Sidon. A contemporary biblical map would reveal that such itinerary does not make sense. Tyre is between Galilee and Sidon. It is in the north, and Sidon is located farther up north, while Galilee is down south. Travelling to Galilee, therefore, could have been much shorter had Jesus not gone to Sidon anymore. But He did. He purposely took a longer journey. Why? Most probably, scholars explain, He wanted to spend more time with His disciples, so that they could listen more to Him as He to listens to them. He certainly was not trying to shake them off or lose them, or make them feel tired and discouraged.

“Ephphatha!” It is not a dream, and our life is not going in circles. It might seem that we are not heading to the right direction, or that we are going farther and farther away from the place we want to be. But, as always, it is happening for a reason. God is taking us somewhere, leading us by the hand, to bring us closer to Him and to make us truly listen to Him.

Be opened! It is an assurance, not a command. It is Jesus’ way of saying that He is always near us. The road might seem long, winding, and unkind. Our troubles might seem unending. But when He is with us and when our hearts are open to Him, we are exactly where we are supposed to be.

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