The Gospel. St. Mark VII. 31.
And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.
We all think we know what the word “open” means. The dictionary definition is pretty obvious; Affording unobstructed entrance and exit; not shut or closed. Affording unobstructed passage or view: In the context of today’s Gospel, the meaning seems equally obvious; The man was deaf – his ears were closed. And Christ opened them so that the man could hear. His ears were no longer shut or closed.
But the Bible uses the word “open” in many different ways, and according to some of the other definitions of the word. “Open”; Free from limitations, boundaries, or restrictions. Spread out; unfolded. Available; obtainable. Accessible to all.
So why am I going on about the definition of “open” so much? It’s because I am struck by the way this particular passage was written. You see, the Gospels all pretty much seem to quote Our Lord verbatim; “Jesus said this…”. But on occasion, we get a little blip like today where the word that Jesus uses needs to be translated for us; “Ephphatha, that is, Be opened”.
The significant thing about this is that Mark’s Gospel was written in Greek, and yet at this point he directly quotes Jesus use of an Aramaic word, “Ephphatha”. Now it’s been thought that the reason that Mark does this is to explain to the readers, who at the time were primarily Roman Christians, about the traditions and customs of the Jewish people so that they could better understand Our Lord’s meaning. For us today, I believe that “Ephphatha” has a broader connotation. Christ is not just speaking to this man or to his deaf ears, he is also speaking to us and to our deafness as well; Our deafness to the world around us, our deafness to the Gospel, and our deafness to God himself.
You see, to “be open” in this context means that we are then able to receive some special sort of revelation. It’s when we become able to see and hear something that we’d never recognized before; received knowledge or inspiration or a vision previously un-beheld. As I mentioned, the Bible is full of such examples. At various points in the Old Testament, the prophets were given the Word of God, which they were instructed to pass along to the people. Another example occurs in the 22nd chapter of Numbers; “Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand”.
But perhaps the most significant examples occur in the Gospels. When Mary Magdalene encounters the Risen Lord in the garden, she does not recognize him. Then he speaks her name and suddenly, she realizes that it’s Jesus and that he is alive! In Luke’s Gospel we are told of two travelers who encounter a man on the road to Emmaus. It’s only when the man brakes bread at dinner time that the travelers realize that this is Jesus. In both cases, it is by the action of Our Lord that eyes and ears were opened and the truth is revealed to us. We see what we had previously blinded ourselves to. We are no longer shut or closed.
So, do we think that because we are Christians that we’ve already received all the revelation that we’re going to get? Well, of course, that’s not exactly how it works. Even though we come to church every week, we still are deaf. Even though we listen to the Epistles and Gospels and even manage stay awake during the sermon, we have still obstructed our paths. We are sinners; we know that. It’s our sin that keeps us from seeing and hearing completely and from knowing the revelation that is there for us.
You see, that’s the whole message of the Gospel. God’s Kingdom is there “Free from limitations, boundaries, or restrictions. Spread out; unfolded. Available; obtainable. Accessible to all.” And all we need to do to see this is to heed Our Lord’s command to “be opened”.
Being open means that we will hear and see and feel things that we’d likely never thought of or imagined before. How many of us have ever really contemplated the wonders of this world; the trees, the grass, the animals; the laughter of a child or the peace of a quiet moment; the perfection of God’s Creation. You’ll truly know all that if you are open.
Have any of us ever rejoiced when people ask us what church we attend because it affords us the opportunity to tell them about our faith? Have we ever had a moment of joy when a friend or family member tells us that they are now going to church? You’ll experience all that if you are open.
Have any of us felt the magnitude and the power of God’s presence? Have we sat at home or in church and known, really known that God is here? You’ll feel that if you are open. “Free from limitations, boundaries, or restrictions. Spread out; unfolded.” “Ephphatha, that is, Be opened”.
Remember, being open means not only Affording unobstructed entrance and exit, but also Affording unobstructed passage or view. When we remove our obstructions, our deafness, our blindness, then we are Free from limitations, boundaries, or restrictions and we can then realize that the Kingdom of God is Available; obtainable, Accessible to all. Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And I suggest two ways that we can do this.
First, we must hear Jesus calling our name. He does it every day, in every place. We don’t necessarily need to be in a garden like Mary Magdalene, but we must be willing and ready to hear Christ speaking our name and to recognize his presence everywhere, at all times.
Second, remember those travelers on the road to Emmaus. Remember how they suddenly knew Our Lord when he broke the bread. Well, don’t we have that same thing right here at the Mass? Don’t we know that Christ is Really and Truly Present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Consecrated bread and wine? Like those travelers, we look up during the Mass, Our Lord’s Supper, and having our blindness removed, we SEE that Christ is here with us, feeding us, nourishing us. Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.
We ask today that our hearts and minds may be opened. We ask for Our Lord’s help to recognize that revelation, that knowledge that the Love of God is Available; obtainable, Accessible to all. And we ask that our deafness and blindness be removed so that we can see and hear and do the Will of God; and that others may likewise hear Christ speaking their names, so that they too may be Afforded an unobstructed passage or view, free from limitations, boundaries, or restrictions to His Kingdom. Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.