Text: Mark 7: 31-37
“And Jesus said to him “Ephphatha!” that is “be opened””
The next few weeks of Scripture are all centred on the same theme: sight to the blind, speech to the mute, hearing to the deaf, freedom to the captive.
We may think that these things do not apply to us, for we are (perhaps with the help of glasses or contact lenses, or a special piece of electronics in our ears), we are not so diminished. Imagine what life would be like in the first century without glasses – I who can barely see beyond the end of my nose, and I suspect many others of us gathered here today would be reduced to sitting at the crossroads, unable to engage with society, limited in work, begging for alms, held captive by our health.
And yet, even with all of today’s modern gadgets and corrective aids, we are still blind, deaf and mute.
- We are blind to the injustices in our society, to the needs in our midst, to the challenges in this very community.
- We are deaf to the cry of the refugee, the distressed, the call of mission in this place.
- We are mute when we encounter slavery, iniquity, oppression and violence
I am not just speaking in a global context either. For once, I am not just referring to happenings in far off lands of which we know (or care) very little. All of this happens on our doorstep, and we all fail to live up to the Christian Gospel.
“Be Opened” are the words Christ uses to heal, to release, to return to active society. “Be Opened” are words of transformation. But Christ does not use words alone, for words alone do not speak of the mystery of the incarnation. Why would Christ choose to come down amongst us – God made flesh – which is the literal meaning in incarnated – why would Christ choose to come down amongst us and then not use physical things to help transform us.
Christ touched the deaf-mute, and used his own spittle to engage with him – raw physicality. In the same way, other fluids of Christ continue to enable us to “be opened”: blood and water that flowed from Christ’s side on the cross, flesh from bread made holy by his words “this is my body”. Yes, my dear friend, all of life is sacramental, all of Christ’s healing work and his teaching is sacramental, and this is why we place such great emphasis on the Mass, on the real presence of Christ, on the healing ministries through oil and the laying on of hands – for that is what the Holy Scriptures teach us to do, and through those we will be opened to the saving grace of God. “Ephphatha” – “Be Opened”.
The paradox of the life of faith is that it is simultaneously both a private and a collective process. The call of Christ to “be opened” goes much deeper than the healing of physical wounds or the repair of hardships. Where Christ calls us to be open from is from our hearts, from our minds.
When we are open in heart and mind to the outrageous possibilities of God, then true transformation takes place: an encounter with the Christ makes a difference within us: to complete, to heal in body, mind and soul, to bring us within ourselves into a new and vivid life.
But it does not stop there. Oh no.
For a private faith is a selfish faith, a personal salvation is an introspective life. A wise old monk was once asked (presumably by those earnest zealots) whether he had accepted Jesus Christ as his own personal Saviour, and he paused and replied “Oh no, I think he is much better shared with others”.
The work of Christ which begins within you, as your heart and soul move steadily towards the light of Christ is not the end of your faith journey. Accepting Christ is not the goal of the life of faith, but it’s starting point: the work of Salvation which begins within you must take a lifetime, and must take place largely outside of you, in the way in which you build the Kingdom in this place.
If I am saved by Christ, then it must be for a purpose.
That purpose is to transform this community, this nation, this world. That purpose is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, his forgiveness, his reconciliation, his healing and to share his love: inclusively to all regardless of background, social status, gender, sexuality or age.
When Christ called “be open”, the implication is that we should not be closed. Injustice, Addiction, Poverty, Deprivation, Discrimination, Apathy – all take place within this very parish as well as throughout the world. It is so easy to turn away and be blind to that which is happening in our locality. We should be prepared to tackle these issues and love and support those who struggle: from lunch clubs to youth work (which we hope to further expand), from hospital support to community development – we all have a role and a contribution. Yes, it will cost time, effort and – most definitely – money, but the outpouring of our hearts, our faith, our love into this place will bring about that transformation which Christ calls us to.
The private faith must be exercised in public and in community. It is true that going to Church does not make you a Christian, any more than standing in a garage for any length of time makes you a motor car; and yet the Church, not this building, lovely as it is, but the people as the collected Body of Christ is a thing so much more powerful than the sum of its parts, its people: it is an agent for transformation, a mechanism through which by the love and support of the other, we may be opened. Come to Mass. Be opened. Be Transformed.
Christ meets us today in word and sacrament and says “be opened”. Ephphatha.
Let us “be open” to what God calls us to this day, this week, this year, in this place.