Deacon Stu Dobson’s Homily
September 4th & 5th, 2021
23rd Sunday in Ordinary time
Is 35:4-7a; Ps 146:7-10; Jas 2:1-5; Mk 7:31-37
A long time ago, probably 30 years ago, I was talking with a friend of mine. Somehow, we got on the subject of Jesus’ miracles and how important they were during Jesus’ time. In ancient times, many, if not all, illnesses were attributed to some sinful act the person or his family did in the past that caused them this particular impediment. My friend said, with modern science, we’ve understood many of these illnesses and have either eradicated them or, at the very least, have learned ways to at least cope with the symptoms and help people function in normal lives. So, in his eyes, we did not need miracles anymore. The miracles in Jesus’ time were just there to get their attention.
I looked at him with a perplexed look and said, “Really? You don’t think we need miracles in our lives anymore? Signs and wonders that remind us of the power of God and how much He cares for us?” He thought about it for a moment and said, “Yeah, I suppose we do.” That was a long time ago, and I still remember the conversation. Maybe It is because every day, I need to be reminded about God’s love, mercy, and grace in my life. And I think, and it is just my opinion, that we need these reminders even more in our lives today, than we did 30, 100, or 2000 or more years ago.
The healings and miracles we hear about in the bible are wide and varied. And the ones in the New Testament are the ones we tend to remember vividly. But they all are there for a purpose. To hear God’s word, and in the New Testament, to see that Jesus is not a traditional healer. Not in the sense of healers of that time, but that Jesus has the power of God to heal. And yet, His miracles are not the end game, they are there so we pay attention and to listen to His words. To listen to the messages He is giving, not just to be amazed at these miracles.
Mark makes this point apparent in his Gospel by focusing in on the healings and Jesus’ words, not on the miracle. In fact, he says Jesus tells the man not to tell anyone. Why? Because the act is more important than the miracle of the man gaining his hearing and speech. And, as I said earlier, the miracles themselves are not the end game. Jesus is the end game. He is the one we should listen to. The miracles are there just to wake us up and get our attention. When Jesus healed the man of his hearing and speech impediment, he spoke specific words and did specific actions. The words and actions Jesus said and did are the very same things we say and do when someone is baptized. Ephphatha! Be Opened! When we baptize, we say this prayer over the child or person that is being baptized and touch their ears and mouth. We do this so as they grow in the faith, they too can listen to God’s word, hear it and profess it. Mark’s purposeful representation of this miracle is so we pay attention to the message. Listen to God’s word, believe it and profess it. Yes, the miracle is great, but are we deaf to this message? Are we not speaking about God’s love to others? Even in the second reading from James, James talks about our own hospitality. Are we loving ALL who we come in contact with? Or are we shunning those who aren’t the same as ourselves?
It is so easy to turn our backs on those who are not like ourselves, or are suffering. We had a missionary priest last weekend at the Masses. He talked about the poverty of those he serves, and those St. Theresa of Calcutta served during her time on earth. And yet, he said, the biggest poverty he has encountered, is the poverty of faith. Those who are blind and deaf to the word. Do you know of someone who does not know Christ? Or is struggling with their faith? Go see them, talk to them, and invite them back to church. But most importantly, love them, love them before it is too late.
Just about every time we come to Mass, we profess our faith. Either in the Creed or during the prayers we say. In fact, in the Collect today we ask God to “look graciously upon your beloved sons and daughters that those who believe in Christ, may receive true freedom and an everlasting inheritance.” True freedom and an everlasting inheritance, what a wonderful gift. Not only for us, but for those we encounter as well. But that gift requires us to receive it and be open to His word and will.
The next time you touch your ears, or your mouth, either by accident or on purpose, think about what you are hearing or saying. And then think about it as it relates to Jesus’ message. Is this what I should be hearing? Or is this what I should be saying? I love what St Augustine says about this, If it does not bring me closer to Christ, why am I saying it or why am I hearing it? Change your direction and runaway fast, as you do not want to go down the road that takes you away from Christ. But most importantly, silently say to yourself, Ephphatha, Be Opened! It’s a great way to constantly remind ourselves about hearing God’s word. For if we do not hear God’s word, how can we speak it and share it with others?