The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Monday, September 10, 2012

Jesus in a word: "Ephphatha!"

One word sums up the mission of Jesus Christ, Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday in his Angelus address: "Ephphatha," which is Aramaic for "be opened." In his reflection on Sunday's Gospel (Mark 7:31-37), Pope Benedict said because humanity is inwardly deaf and mute as a result of sin, God became man in the person of Christ so that we "become able to hear the voice of God, the voice of love speaking to our heart, and learn to speak in the language of love." For this reason, Jesus' words and actions recounted in Sunday's Gospel are re-enacted during the Rite of Baptism. The Pontiff's address is a fruitful meditation on Jesus' own words to each one of us, and our common call as baptized disciples of Christ. Below is the English translation of his remarks provided by Vatican Radio.

Ephphatha! ...

And may our response always be:
"Speak Lord, for your servant is listening!" (cf. 1Samuel 3).

At the heart of today's Gospel (Mk 7, 31-37) there is a small but, very important word. A word that -- in its deepest meaning -- sums up the whole message and the whole work of Christ. The Evangelist Mark writes it in the same language that Jesus pronounced it in, so that it is even more alive to us. This word is "Ephphatha," which means, "be opened."

Let us look at the context in which it is located. Jesus was traveling through the region known as the "Decapolis," between the coast of Tyre and Sidon, and Galilee, therefore a non-Jewish area. They brought to him a deaf man, so that he could heal him -- evidently his fame had spread that far. Jesus took him aside, touched his ears and tongue, and then, looking up to the heavens, with a deep sigh said, "Ephphatha," which means, "Be opened." And immediately the man began to hear and speak fluently (cf. Mk 7:35).

This then is the historical, literal, meaning of this word: this deaf mute, thanks to Jesus’ intervention, "was opened." Before, he had been closed, insulated, it was very difficult for him to communicate; his recovery was '"openness" to others and the world, an openness that, starting from the organs of hearing and speech, involved all his person and his life. Finally, he was able to communicate and thus relate in a new way.

But we all know that closure of man, his isolation, does not solely depend on the sense organs. There is an inner closing, which covers the deepest core of the person, what the Bible calls the "heart." That is what Jesus came to "open," to liberate, to enable us to fully live our relationship with God and with others. That is why I said that this little word, "Ephphatha – Be opened," sums up Christ’s entire mission. He became man so that man, made inwardly deaf and dumb by sin, would become able to hear the voice of God, the voice of love speaking to his heart, and learn to speak in the language of love, to communicate with God and with others.

For this reason, the word and the gesture of '"Ephphatha" are included in the Rite of Baptism, as one of the signs that explain its meaning: the priest touching the mouth and ears of the newly baptized says: "Ephphatha," praying that they may soon hear the Word of God and profess the faith. Through Baptism, the human person begins, so to speak, to "breathe" the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus had invoked from Father with that deep breath, to heal the deaf and dumb man.

Let us turn in prayer to Mary Most Holy, whose Nativity we celebrated Saturday. Because of her unique relationship with the Incarnate Word, Mary is fully "open" to the love of the Lord, her heart is constantly listening to his Word. May her maternal intercession help us to experience every day, in faith, the miracle of '"Ephphatha," to live in communion with God and with others.

-- Pope Benedict XVI
September 9, 2012

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