Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Ephphatha!"-- that is, "Be opened!"

The Gospel on Sunday, Sep. 9, 2012, is about the healing of a man who was deaf and suffered from a speech impediment. Jesus’ liberating action on this double ailment calls our attention to the close connection between “hearing” and “speaking” – two essential faculties for proclaiming the Good News of salvation. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

Physical and Spiritual Deafness

In the First Reading, Isaiah's Old Testament prediction of this miracle underlies Mark's understanding of Jesus' cure of the man in the Gospel. Abbot Philip, OSB outlines how Mark's story of the healing of this hearing and speech impaired man invites us to consider some important points about sickness and suffering in the New Testament.

The healing stories in the Gospels reflect Jesus' intimate, powerful relationship with God and His great compassion. He healed with words, touch and physical means. He worked so many cures that people were mobbing him. And that was the trouble. Fr. John Foley, S. J. says Jesus was in danger of becoming famous as a wonder-worker. The people were thinking their lives would be saved if only if only they got their health back, if only they could find relief in daily life, or if only—well, you name it.

But Jesus was concerned not only with physical infirmity but also spiritual impairment and moral deafness. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB explains how our Lord He confronted one type in the man born deaf, the other type in the Pharisees and others who were unreceptive of his message. These miracles were meant to be signs, confirmations of the truth of His teachings, and invitations to trust and obey him. Unfortunately, Fr. John Bartunek points out, many people were willing to be cured by him but few were willing to suffer with him. And that became clear at the time of his passion.

"Ephphatha, be opened!"

The Lord continues to open our ears by preaching the Word of God to us. By listening to Him, He in turn calls us to proclaim his Word with the witness of our lives. Fr. Omer Prieto stresses that our ability to proclaim depends entirely on our capacity to listen. And we don't pray to make God present to us, Fr. Ron Rolheiser explains. We pray to make ourselves present to God. The secret to prayer is not to try to make God present, but to make ourselves present to God.

And when we read the Bible, do we "hear" what it says? The Bible does not tell us to read the Word of God, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB explains. The Bible tells us to hear it, to listen to it. That is the great Jewish prayer: "Shema, Israel," "Hear, O Israel." Someone else must read the Word so that we may hear it and truly understand it.

And at our parishes, Fr. Phil Bloom adds, that is Faith Formation. It is about listening to the Lord. And he encourages us to take it seriously. For the purpose of God’s Word, after all, is not just to challenge us towards charity, social justice, morality, or even to the worship of something higher or to form community among ourselves. Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us that Christ came, as God’s incarnate Word, to bring us life, light, and love.

Evidence of the Sacramental System

The Gospels are filled with the evidence of the sacramental system initiated by Christ. This miracle is one of them. As incarnate God he uses physical reality, the gifts of God's creation, as signs to bear the grace of supernatural life. All of creation is wrapped up in the proclamation of redemption.

Father Cusick illustrates how in the Baptismal ritual the priest continues this ordering of creation as a sign of salvation when he repeats the blessing "Ephphatha! Be opened!" over the ears and mouth of the newly baptized child. At this point too in the Baptism, Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS, points out that healing is best expressed. The priest says, “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May He touch your ears to receive His word and your mouth to proclaim your faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.”

The power of faith's hearing and seeing enables us to realize that the only way to share Christ's resurrection is through sharing Christ's love. And at our Eucharist, Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB reminds us, we pray for the gift of sharing the faith and compassion of Christ in the particular circumstances of our own lives. We become a community whose unity is due to divine power, the power of the Spirit. And it is not just a spiritual club for those who look alike and dress alike. It is instead comprised by people from every tribe, tongue, people, language, occupation, and lifestyle. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio says it is the universal family of God, the Church Catholic

When We and God Say “No”

We’ve all experienced those occasions when our prayers seem to have gone “unanswered.” Gary Zimak. asks given the many comments in the Bible regarding the Lord hearing our prayers, could there really be such a thing as “unanswered prayer”? While the obvious answer is “no”, why is it that we sometimes ask but don’t receive?

And we oftentimes also say "No" to God. Brent Stubbs offers three reasons why Jesus would be rejeceted by the Jews of His time. And they are the same three reasons why people reject the Church today. They can be summarized in three distinct yet overlapping categories: ontological, moral and epistemic.

Salvation and Heaven

Fr. Alexander Lucie-Smith says the Church must challenge the idea that life on earth always ends with heaven. He explains how there has been in our society an almost complete loss of any sense of the “drama of salvation,” namely that the eternal outcome of our lives is an open question. If you ask churchgoers today what they think happens to them when we die, many of them will say that we go to heaven, not judgment.

Benedict XVI refers to it as "false religiosity." It as entrusting our joy and security "in material goods, power or other 'gods'." In this way religion "loses its true meaning which is found in listening to God, in doing His will" and external practices which "instead satisfy the human need to feel right before God."

Evangelization in the Workplace

We criticize the Church a lot for lagging when it comes to its use of technology. Should we, the champions of communion, also be the foremost champions of the latest communication methods? Of course! But in the end, Matthew Warner says these are not what we should be known for most. The opportunity for us is a much greater one. And it's one that is deeply and directly connected with the core mission of the Church in the first place.

These offer us opportunities to spread our faith in places like our workplace. Randy Hain shares five thoughts on how to overcome our fear of what others may think of us, be more courageous and go about setting a good example. But often times we hear from the culture that Catholics and other Christians come off as pushy, annoying, and extremist. Jerome Placido says sometimes we are even perceived as hypocrites. Ryan Eggenberger says the best way to overcome this is to “make a friend, be a friend, and bring a friend to Christ.” He offers four “Non-Churchy” tips to open up opportunities for evangelization.

Stories of Hope

LaChita Calloway tells the story of his wayward son. When twelve-year-old son, Donnie became involved with drugs and alcohol, as far as she could tell, he was still the same obedient and kindhearted son he had always been. They had been close during his childhood but she failed to recognize the changes he was going through. And strayed - badly. But friends and family never gave up and they kept praying for him.. Today Donnie is a faith-filled Catholic priest. And LaChita is a modern day St. Monica.

Simcha Fisher talks about her summer adventure. Because they haven't suffered enough this summer, she and her husband took their nine kids camping this week. Last time they went camping, they were single, fit, and owned sneakers. They are not really the outdoorsy type. But this was their summer for just going ahead and doing things, whether they made sense or not. So there they were, camping. This is what they learned.

Hot Jobs in a Cold Economy

Technology, business, retail and service industries rank among the other fast-growing careers in the rapidly and profoundly changing American workplace, according to employment experts and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What follows is a list of some of the 10 hottest industries for jobs over the next decade, as determined by NBC News based on government and private data.

The hottest opportunities remain in the health care industry, where demand is fueled by new technology, new treatments, our increased longevity and the reality that bedside care is one commodity that just can’t be outsourced.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: What are 5 major reasons we pray?
FEATURED BLOG: Why God Sometimes Says “No”
PASTORAL ISPANA: Una pedagogia para poder escuchar

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