23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 7.31-37

Returning from the region of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.

They brought to him a man who was deaf and who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. Jesus took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

 

“Be Opened” is the what today’s Gospel readings asks of us. As students make preparations to return to campus, this reading is particularly pertinent. In a recent session of Lectio Divina, students were asked to consider the texts from the Gospel of Luke chapter 12. A common theme that emerges when you discuss back-to-school, or any ‘disruptive’ period, is the anxiety and difficulties we can experience with the stress of change. For students, the challenges they face when moving away from home for the first time are frightening, but they can also be exciting. Maybe they can take the opportunity to ‘reinvent’ something about themselves that is no longer authentic to who they are, or find ways of pushing themselves beyond their own boundaries.

 

Before one undertakes the process of change, it is important for them to prepare within them a space. Space for discernment – an openness to change. This is, in fact, what we are called to in today’s Gospel: “Be Opened”. Be ready to receive the gifts that the Holy Spirit has for us. There is no certainty that these gifts will be easy; something as radical as restoring hearing and speech to the man is disruptive to his very being. All he has known is non-verbal communication; imagine the immense task of learning how to hear and speak after never being able to. In a way, the real miracle is that the man has now opened himself up to the possibility of undertaking this immeasurable struggle of painstakingly developing the muscles necessary for speech (assuming there are no speech pathologists) on his own.

 

The strength and conviction we are given by Christ is indeed enough to persevere any challenges we face, but the question is – are we open to change?