2018-09, A Touch of Communication

Homily 09-09-18
23rd Sunday Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Is 35:4-7a; Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10; Jas 2:1-5; Mk 7:31-37

(Scriptures included after homily)


It’s interesting how God and life constantly give us insight, give us experiences that teach us how to understand one another.  And from those experiences,we can choose to either, learn and grow, or we can choose to complain and stagnate in self centeredness.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I grew up in North Jersey living behind, and working in my dad’s grocery store, from the age of seven.  The experience instilled in us kids, what some might call, today, “a good work ethic.”  And even though we didn’t really have a choice in that particular ‘life experience’, we did grow from it.  We learned about human nature.  We learned about social interactions.  And we learned about life!

You see, while it was a lot of fun for us kids, that store certainly did have its challenges: like our 16-hour work-day, for 7-days of the week.

And yet it also had its bennies (that’s a Jersey slang for benefits)! Like fresh-scooped French ice cream, fountain sodas, fresh donuts and a case full of candy, pretty much, whenever we wanted them.

Unfortunately, that life choice also came with its own consequences.  And if you’re old enough to remember the dentist from 50-years ago, it was one of those life experiences that you’ll never forget.  Sure, they had novocaine back then.  But when they shot you up for a drilling, you were numb from the tip of your head to half-way down your neck.  And, of course, that included your tongue.

Ever try to have a conversation with someone who had a speech impediment?

Well, with one trip to the dentist, we learned how difficult, and how frustrating it is to get a simple point across, especially when no one wants to listen to your mumbling!

And then, listening is another whole story!  All it takes is a bad head cold, or some, all-summer allergies for us to experience the challenge of not being able to properly hear.

And when we put both speech and hearing impediments together – like a mid-summer’s dentist visit, we just might understand the motive of those Greek-Gentiles in the Decapolis, who were determined to test-out the true healing capability of this new miracle-worker, named Jesus, with a worst-case-scenario.

Would it be a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down for the new guy?

And yet we’ve seen time after time in Mark’s Gospel how Jesus was never out to make Himself famous.  How so many of his healings, like this one, were done in total seclusion, away from the crowd.  And how He always prayed and gave the Glory for all of His miracles, to God His Father.

You see, the true goal of Jesus’ ministry was to find and to inspire OUR Faith in God; to open OUR ears for listening and OUR voices for sharing that “Good News” of God’s love for each and every one of us!  And once we understood that, then it could be – us – who would have the ability to heal one another, ourselves.

The mission of Jesus was really done for the Good of ALL humanity.  It was done for the building of a Kingdom of Goodness, a Kingdom of God.

Ever try to have a conversation with someone who had both speech and hearing impediments?

Today we call it sign language.

And it all begins, as St. James tells us, with our own attitudes.

“Show no partiality,” James says.

Accept people where they are.

Listen with all of our attention.

And communicate in whatever way works best, for the situation at hand.

When Jesus was alone with that deaf and mute man, He first touched the man’s ears.  You see, the man couldn’t hear, but he could see and feel.  And by that touch, he knew that this meeting with Jesus was about his hearing.

Then Jesus spat, which was a sign of the expulsion of evil.  So the man knew that something extraordinary was about to happen.

He touched the man’s tongue and groaned, using the man’s own, mumbling language as a personal and loving connection with him.

And then, looking up to heaven, Jesus gave all the Glory to God, His Father.

Finally, with one single utterance of vocal language, Jesus said, “Ephphatha,” BE OPENED, and the man was instantly healed.

Ephphatha, this is the same word we use in our beautiful Sacrament of Baptism.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, Cleansed of all sin, in Baptism we are blessed with human OPENNESS.

  • Be opened: in showing no partiality, no prejudice, and no judgment of others.
  • Be opened: in listening to and understanding the needs of others.
  • Be opened: to finding new ways to communicate with those who are lost.
  • Be opened: to sharing the Love of God, even with those who may seem unreachable.
  • Be opened: to learning and growing from every experience
    that God and life have to offer us.

.     .     .     .     .     .     .

This week is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Week.

It’s funny how in a world with so many technological means of communication, we still see a prevalence of loneliness, despair and hopelessness that can so often be caused by a lack of communication.

It truly IS our call to listen closer, to share that love of God in a smile, or a hug, or even just through our silent presence with a friend or a neighbor in need.  It may not always be the perfect answer, but BY our Ephphatha, we CAN become the healing presence of Jesus in our world today.

The question is,
“Are we willing to make that choice?”

jmp 09-09-18


Scripture Readings for the Mass of 09-09-18
Twenty third Sunday Ordinary Time, B

First Reading:  Is 35:4-7a

Thus says the LORD: Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.

Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water.


Responsorial Psalm:  Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10

R. Praise the Lord, my soul!

The God of Jacob keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets captives free.

R. Praise the Lord, my soul!

The LORD gives sight to the blind; the LORD raises up those who were bowed down. The LORD loves the just; the LORD protects strangers.

R. Praise the Lord, my soul!

The fatherless and the widow the LORD sustains, but the way of the wicked he thwarts. The LORD shall reign forever; your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia.

R. Praise the Lord, my soul!


Second Reading:  Jas 2:1-5

My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please,” while you say to the poor one, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?


Gospel:  Mk 7:31-37

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis.

And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.

He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” — And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.

He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”


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