From the Pastor – September 9, 2018

daily short prayersThey were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (Mk  7:37)

Two weeks ago we finished reading the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel, called the “Bread of Life” discourse. It’s a break that we experience each year during the normal reading of Mark’s Gospel, and it’s meant to point directly to what Jesus gives us in the Holy Eucharist each time we participate in Holy Communion. Now we are back to reading the Gospel according to Mark.

Out of all of the Gospels, Mark’s is the shortest, and is likely to have been the first written. However, it often tells the story of the ministry Jesus in more vivid detail than either Matthew or Luke. Mark stresses Jesus’ message about the kingdom of God breaking into human life as good news. Jesus is portrayed as immensely popular among the people during his ministry. He works miracles and drives out demons, but gradually receives mounting opposition.

The story this weekend is about a man having his hearing restored.  It’s interesting that Mark gives the Semetic word that Jesus would have used.  He said “Ephphatha!”  And Mark says it’s translated as “be opened.” And it is characteristic of Mark’s Gospel that Semetic words are placed in the mouth of Jesus, many of which are familiar to us, words like “Abba” addressing God as Father, “talitha kum” to the little girl Jesus raises from the dead, and “Eli Eli, lema sabachthani” (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”) which Jesus spoke from the cross.

The call of Jesus to “be opened” points back to the first reading in Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming of the Lord.  And it had such a profound effect on the followers of Jesus that they wanted to reproduce not simply the “meaning” of what Jesus said, but the actual word: ephphatha.  And the word points to us in two ways. Most of us heard it for the first time at our Baptism, when the priest – after anointing our head with Chrism – whispered it in our ear and prayed that “our ears would soon be open to hear the Word of God and our mouths to proclaim it.”

And it also points to our present day, to a command that we open our own ears to Jesus and His plan for us. It points to His proclamation of the Kingdom of God.  It points to the Beatitudes.

Next week we’ll reach a breakthrough in Mark’s Gospel with Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ and then Jesus emphasizing His passion rather than the glory of the kingdom.  The kingdom cannot come except through the cross, and the Resurrection is the biggest miracle of all. for New Orleans Mass Times
(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty