Jesus Christ, touch our tongues, that we may speak words of endearment to those we love: Christ, have mercy. R/ Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, touch our eyes, that we may see and feel the needs of those lonely and abandoned: Lord, have mercy R/ Lord, have mercy.
A. Lord, Open Our Ears and Lips Let us pray that God's Spirit may open us to all that is good (PAUSE) God our Father, you wait for us to be open to you, to people, and to all that is true, beautiful and good. Let your Spirit open our ears to the liberating word of your Son. Let him open our hearts and hands to everyone who needs us. Let him open our lips, that we may proclaim everywhere the marvels you do for us. We ask this through Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.
Dear friends, Today’s gospel reminds us that when we were baptised, the Lord touched our ears to receive his word and our mouths to proclaim his faith. Now we have gathered together to listen to his word and to proclaim that faith. So, let us ask God to bless this water, which we will use to remind us of our baptism, and to keep us faithful to the Spirit he has given us.
The story is told of a four year old saying her night prayers. She asked God to take care of mommy, daddy, and her cat. Then she asked, "And now, God, what can I do for you?"
A question still hotly debated is how do we take care of the poor. Three billion people exist on $3 a day. Over one half billion on $1 daily. A quarter billion children work sometimes in dreadful conditions. Five people will die from malaria in the time it takes you to read this homily. Do we help the poor and ill just by paying our taxes? Or do we give at the office? Or do we get our own hands dirty? The answer to these questions is found in today's Gospel?
Mark is the only Evangelist who tells us this sensitive story. The Teacher had little over one year to live. The police were after Him. He and His people slipped north across the border into today's Lebanon and yesterday's Phoenicia. He spent some time hiding out in the still existing cities of Tyre and Sidon.
He may have spent as many as eight months on the run.
We are given the context of today’s story: it took place as Jesus was “returning from the district of Tyre”. He was passing “by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee” and this brought him “right through the Decapolis region”. This reminds us that we must know how to leave our ordinary surroundings so that we can meet people like this man.
By the time of Jesus many religious traditions were in place which served to differentiate between those who were on the inside and those who were outsiders. This led to divisions, inequality and oppression — the very things that the covenant was supposed to eradicate. So when Jesus reached out to the poor, to sinners and those on the margins he was bringing into focus once again the kind of world God wanted. His was a love that included everyone and which could not be bought. In commanding that the ears of the deaf man be opened there is a message to us all, especially those who think that their hearing is perfect. Our ability to really hear the good news can be limited by many things, especially closed minds and hearts. Perhaps as individuals and as a community our prayer during this Sunday Eucharist might be that we would be opened to all the transformation that God wants to work in us.
1. Better than just a homily today is to have a little ceremony of ephphatha, and then perhaps say a few words. However, if that is not possible, then here are some notes.
Lord, nowadays, when people need to have hands laid on them
- teachers prefer classroom lectures rather that one-to-one sessions,
- pastors in your Church no longer sit and converse with members of their communities,
- the confessional has been replaced by the office with secretaries and answering machines,
- spiritual guides approach their work like busy professionals.
Western culture needs care-givers like Jesus who take people aside in private, away from crowds, put their fingers into the ears of those who have not heard words of forgiveness and encouragement, make personal contact with them as intimate as Jesus putting spittle on the tongue of the man who had an impediment in his speech; people who feel very deeply the pain of the person entrusted to them so that in communion with them they will raise their eyes to heaven and sigh.
the ligaments of their tongues will be loosened
so that they will feel able to speak clearly the truth of what they feel.
so that they do not experience the joys of human communion:
- they have heard so many negative things about themselves that compliments do not get through to them;
- they are fearful of being rejected and cannot risk saying what is within them.
Send them people like Jesus to lay healing hands on them,
people who recognise how deep-seated their problems are
and take them aside in private, away from the crowd,
where they can say what is in their hearts;
people who will make a human contact with them,
almost putting their fingers into their ears and touching their tongues with spittle;
not arrogant people, but the kind who will look humbly to heaven
for the wisdom to say and do the right things;
who will not be aloof either,
but will sigh as they feel the pain of those they are listening to.
They will say, "Be opened," and people’s ears will be opened;
at their touch, ligaments of tongues will be loosened and speech will flow.
Lord, we think today of the many people who live in their own world,
unable to communicate with those around them:
- the elderly abandoned by their families and residing in homes with strangers,
- young people isolated from both peers and elders,
- immigrants who cannot hear what is being said to them and cannot speak in their own language,
- people of deep faith categorised by majority religions as pagans or idolaters.
We ask you to send them people to whom they can be brought,
as the man in the gospel was brought to Jesus, to have hands laid on them
so that they can hear the liberating words, "Ephphatha"
and their ears can be opened to hear a voice they can recognise
and they can feel a human presence which will loosen the ligaments of their tongues.
to have him lay hands on them.
Their ears were opened so that they heard your word spoken personally to them,
the ligaments of their tongues were loosened
and they who up till then were silent in your presence
as if they had an impediment in their speech
now speak clearly and freely in joyful praise.
Help the leaders of your Church to walk in his steps,
not relying on their status as bishops, priests, deacons or lay ministers,
but on their willingness to meet people at their level,
in private away from the crowds,
sharing their common humanity and feeling their pain.
Their history of mutual suspicion has made them incapable
of communicating with each other.
Like the man in the gospel story their ears are blocked
and they have an impediment in their speech
- neither side can hear what the other is saying,
and they cannot speak without being misunderstood.
Lord, we thank you for revealing to us the deep meaning of your messianic secret.
Help us always to find it within the limits of our human experience of people
who can now be introduced into the great mystery of human communion.
That was the famous declaration made by the early Swedish film star and glamour girl Greta Garbo (1905-1990). But it was that declaration that jinxed her search for solitude. A vast cast of has-been, over-the-hill actors and actresses struggled to stay in focus but swiftly faded out of the limelight and into obscurity. But Garbo, by her very insistence on alone-time, was hounded by media hangers-on until her death in 1990. To get a picture of Greta Garbo remained a paparazzi "holy grail" throughout her life.
2) Persistent Attention
In Keeping Pace, Ernest Fitzgerald relayed the true story of a magazine company which several years ago purchased a new computer. Its function was to compile data and send out subscription notices to customers whose subscriptions had lapsed. One day something went wrong with the machine, and before the error was discovered (about a month later), a certain rancher in Colorado had received 9,374 notices that his subscription had expired. Someone in the magazine office posted the letter the company received from him. Inside was a check for one year's subscription along with a handwritten note saying: "I give up! Send me the magazine." He was won over by their consistent, persistent attention.
3) A Model of Faith
It may come as a shock to most Christians today, but we would do better to use this woman as a model of faith even more than the disciples. After all, we are neither Jewish nor Galilean; we have no familial claim or geographical claim to Jesus.
I have a friend who is a surgeon and a committed Christian. He is the physician who took care of me when I had a snow blower accident and needed surgery on two fingers. During one of the surgeries (all done with local anesthetic), I asked, "Don, do you believe in divine healing?" "Is there any other kind?" he responded.
If you put a buzzard in a pen that is 6 feet by 8 feet and is entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of 10 to 12 feet. Without space to run, as is its habit, it will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top. The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkable nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then, at once, it takes off like a flash.
6) Quiet Time Is for Listening
There was a fifth grade teacher who decided that she would use this listening process with her children. Every morning for five minutes she required them to be totally quiet. That's hard for any of us to do, much less a fifth grader. She discovered that a great deal of good came from the experience of silence. After one of these quiet times she asked the students if they had heard anything. One boy said: Yes, I heard something say that I should be more obedient to my parents. Another said: I heard something say that you should always be fair: When you are tagged and nobody sees it you are still out. There is no substitute for listening.
7) The Friendship Mirror
8) Believing in Jesus: Erasing Boundaries
If we believe in Jesus, we know the boundaries are erased inside and out, life's for us all. Fred Craddock tells the story of a missionary sent to preach the gospel in India near the end of World War II. After many months the time came for a furlough back home. His church wired him the money to book passage on a steamer but when he got to the port city he discovered a boat load of Jews had just been allowed to land temporarily. These were the days when European Jews were sailing all over the world literally looking for a place to live, and these particular Jews were staying in attics and warehouses and basements all over that port city.
9) The Sermon Title
Generations of preachers at Princeton Seminary were schooled in their homiletical skills by Dr. Donald Macleod. Among the points Dr. Macleod would make during the semester was the importance of choosing a compelling sermon title. In fact, he asked students to give their sermon title before beginning each sermon.
Once upon a time there was a lake which usually froze over in the winter. It was a great place to skate and very safe as long as the weather remained cold. Normally parents began to worry about the lake only after March 15 because the lake was in the Middle West where winter lasts till, like May, sometimes. Anyway, this one winter was quite warm (for the middle west) and little pools of water often appeared in the lake at the end of a day, though they froze again over night. The police warned everyone who lived near the Lake to be careful because the ice might be very thin in some places. Parents in turn warned their children, who, like kids often do, skillfully tuned out everything their parents said. So a lot of parents ordered the kids to stay away from the lake. Well, one week in late February there was a fierce cold spell and the Lake seemed to have returned to its old, icy self. The kids all wanted to skate. Teachers told them not to. Their parents told them not to. The kids listened and nodded dutifully.
There was a sound like someone had fired a gun. The ice cracked all around them and they were suddenly on an ice island in the middle of the lake at least twenty feet from any other ice – which was still cracking and breaking up. Then the little ice island looked like it was going to sink.
11) “Little monk” who opened blind eyes:
At the Annual National Prayer Breakfast on February 2, 1984, Ronald Reagan, the former president of the United States, told the old story of "the little monk," Telemachus, a martyr whose self-sacrificing commitment to Christian ideals opened the blind eyes and deaf ears of the Romans and their fifth century Christian emperor Honorius. According to the story, this Turkish monk was led by an inner voice to go to Rome in order to stop the cruel and inhuman gladiatorial fights between slaves. He followed the crowds to the Coliseum where two gladiators were fighting. He jumped into the arena and tried to stop them, shouting "In the name of Christ, hold back!" The gladiators stopped, but the spectators became indignant. A group of them rushed into the arena and beat Telemachus to death. When the crowd saw the brave little monk lying dead in a pool of blood, they fell silent, leaving the stadium, one by one. Three days later, because of Telemachus' heroic sacrifice of his own life, the Emperor decreed an end to the games. In today's Gospel, which describes the miraculous healing of a deaf mute, we are invited to open our ears and eyes, loosen our tongues and pray for the courage of our Christian convictions to become the voice of the voiceless.
13) "Five past two."