23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B by Fr. Isaac A.  Mensah

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23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B by Fr. Isaac A.  Mensah


1st Reading: Isaiah 35:4-7A

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10

2nd Reading : James 2:1-5

Gospel: Mark 7:31-37


Theme: Ephphatha: Be Opened!!!




Have you ever locked yourself out of your house, car, shop etc how did you get back in and what was the experience? I guess it was a very frustrating moment for you. And finally you opened with a big sigh of relief after sweating profusely. The joy that comes with opening or getting access to a place after a long period of waiting is what we reflect in our readings of today. The message we hear in all the three reading is simply: Epephatha! That is: Be Opened! Be open to the goodness and graciousness of our God.


Explanation of the text


Our first reading is a message of hope for the oppressed people of God and for all whose hearts are frightened: “Be strong, fear not” (Isa. 35:4). It is a message of restoration from the Lord, who neither shows favoritism nor likes oppression. God will transform even the earth with streams bursting forth in the desert, burning sands become pools and springs of water in thirsty ground. Above all, it is a message of hope from a loving Father who cares for all his children. Isaiah thus encourages the people to be open to the saving work of God, who will open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf.


The Gospel reading of today is a fulfillment of the prophecy in our first reading. We read the story of Jesus healing the deaf man with a speech impediment. The Greek “deaf”(kōphos) means completely unable to hear, while _mogilalos_ (lit. “speaking with difficulty) which is recognized as tragic in the Bible (Ps 38:13), depicts accurately the suffering of those born deaf. We are told from the gospel that some people came to Jesus begging Him to heal the deaf and dumb guy. The Greek for “beg” ( parakalein) has many nuances. Literally it means “call alongside of”, with the sense of soliciting an advocate.


Here is when Jesus speaks, “Epephatha- that is be opened” ( Mark 7:34). I have been reflecting recently on the several times in the Gospels when we come across Jesus’original Aramaic words being kept instead of being translated into Greek, the original language of the gospels- eg like “Epephatha”, “Abba”, “Talitha koum” and “Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachtani”. These words are used deliberately to underscore the intimacy of the moment and the personal relationship of Jesus with one with whom He is communicating.


This man, being deaf and unable to speak resulted in virtual isolation from the community. He was cut off from hearing others and from speaking with others. So when Jesus healed him and spoke the words, “be opened”, he literally tore down the walls that kept this man from the fullness of life. The way of life was opened to him. Now he could hear the laughter, the conversations, the sacred stories, the marvelous deeds of God and he could hear Jesus speak of God’s love for him.


“Open” is one beautiful word and action we have. We marvel and celebrate a lot of openings; new store, new league, new gadgets, gifts, windows, and doors. We also use the word to describe the recommended attitude of opening our hearts, minds, wills, and person. Opening allows the flowing in or out of things, ideas, and opportunities. There’s something I learned recently about the mystery of gate and doors. Every territory has gate and doors and every destiny has gate and doors and every life has gate and doors. This is the mystery of oppression and stagnation that a man can move physically but in the realm of the spirit the gate has not been opened. And if the gate has not been opened you can forever languish in a particular situation.


A word from God is only thing that breaks any barrier that is hindering us completely. When God spoke in Genesis, chaos ceased in the cosmos and life jumped out of the ground and sea. And it was all good!.

All the Lord has to do is to say something. But to experience the grace of Epephatha, we need to come before the Lord in humility. This is what our second reading from James speaks about. The grace of God has been made open to all without distinction.




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