YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
SUNDAY HOMILY THEME: EPHPHATHA EXPERIENCE
BY: Fr. Cyril Unachukwu CCE
In the deafening noise of vices that bedevils our times and the indifference and ideological persecution that render speechless the voice of truth, one cannot but sense the ongoing and resilient open war to silence to dumbness the voice of virtue. Confronted by this conflict that revives the age long tension between the force of Light and the force of darkness, we cannot but pray for a renewal of the ‘Ephphatha’ experience on each one of us. May the touch of Christ bring us the docility to listen to the Word of Life and the courage to pronounce what we have heard in word and deed; Amen.
Restoration of sight to the blind and the power of speech to the dump and the power of hearing to the deaf were part of the messianic expectations. This was at the center of the prophecy we read today in the First Reading (Is 35:4-7). The lines of this reading recapture the prophetic voice and words of deliverance from God through the prophet and to God’s people who were facing a very turbulent and difficult time in their history as a people. A period of crisis that could be likened to ours, not just for the world at large but particularly to us a Church, as the Family of God, at this point, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.” It was exactly in such moment that God spoke to His people, as He is speaking to us afresh today that “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy.” It is often the temptation to stop at a literal and superficial understanding of these prophetic lines. Much deeper than that, God invites us to a special form of encounter that not only liberates us physically, but that which also spiritually emancipates us and empowers and places us at the forefront to successfully realize our mission as sons and daughters of God.
It is very glaring that we are living in a time where we hear more of vices than of virtues. In a time where virtuous living seems to be the abnormal way of life whereas vices are praised with the loudest of voices and with the grandeur of visual glamour. Hence, the problem of our time goes beyond that of being deaf to the physical sound of things but much deeper to being deaf to the voice of virtue and God-founded values. Hence the sound of ‘Ephphatha’ we need to hear in our times is not just to open our physical ears, for that would be the greatest limitation of the power of God, but also our inner ears to hear what the Lord says to us and to loosen the ligaments of our tongues to announce what we have heard to everybody. This was the ‘Ephphatha’ Jesus spoke to the deaf man in the Gospel Reading (Mk 7:31-37) of Today. Beyond the restoration of the man’s power of speech, this man received, together with those around him the grace to recognize the divine power at work in Jesus Christ, the values Jesus stood for and embodied in His person and also the boldness to speak about God “He has done all this well, He makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.” Have you had an experience of this ‘Ephphatha?
By virtue of our baptism, we have all made the same experience with the deaf man of today. Our ears have been opened and the ligaments of our tongues loosened. The problem we have is that we allow this persecutive and deafening noise of vices to silence us into confusion and uncertainty and uncharitable empathy for evil and the destruction of our families and societies by injustice and exploitation of the poor and the vulnerable. In the words of the Second Reading (James 2:1-5) we have been pushed into the use of standards that demeans the values we profess and should defend. The Word of God is charging us once more today to be the voice of the voiceless, to stand against injustice and to speak and witness in words and deeds the Good-news that we carry for “all that is necessary for the triumph of sin and vice is for good men and women to keep mute and do nothing.”
May God grant us the grace to witness, in words and deeds, to virtue and good living and may the voice faith and truth silence the noise of vices in our world; Amen.
Happy Sunday; Fr Cyril CCE