September 09, 2018
There are words that are more than words. Examples: when we swear under oath to tell the truth or when we promise our love and fidelity in marriage or promise obedience at ordination. Our words can take on deeper meaning and become word-events.
In our First Reading from Isaiah, the Jewish prophet, speaking for God, announces an oracle of salvation. God is coming to heal humanity: “the eyes of the blind will be opened; ears of the deaf will be cleared; the lame will leap; and the tongues of the mute will sing.” God is coming to renew the earth: “streams will burst forth in the desert; rivers on the steppe; burning sands will become pools and thirsty ground, springs of water.” The “Word” of God is efficacious.
St. James exhorts the faith community to “be doers of the word and not hearers only…” St. James chastises the assembly gathered for prayer and study of the Word for showing preference and accommodation for the wealthy and not for the shabby members. “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?”
In the Gospel according to St. Mark, Jesus and the disciples are traveling in pagan territory. A deaf and mute person is brought to him for healing. Jesus takes him aside away from the crowd, puts his finger into his ears, spitting, touches his tongue, looks up to heaven, groans and says to him: “Ephphata” – that is “Be opened!” What Jesus says is a word-action that fulfills the promise of Isaiah that the ears of the deaf will be cleared and the tongues of the mute will sing.
At this time of crisis in the church when we are tempted to walk away, we must hear the Lord speaking through Isaiah: “Be strong, fear not!” We must feel the steadying hand of Jesus and hear “Ephphata” -- be opened to the voice of Jesus to the laity to become engaged and part of the transformation. The Pope and Bishops are admitting that Church hierarchy cannot address and amend clerical abuse of children, teens and adults without active involvement of lay women and men. To this purpose, we are scheduling two opportunities (7:00 PM Wednesday September 19 and 10 AM Thursday September 20) for the laity to meet to discuss the unfolding crisis and to discern appropriate (even challenging) ways to bring healing, validation, transparency, accountability, justice and structural change.
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