Recently, in the Gospel reading of Mark 7:31-37, we heard Jesus heal a deaf man who spoke with a speech impediment. During that reading, we heard Jesus command, “Ephphatha!” We are informed during the Gospel reading that it means, “Be opened!” Jesus opened the ears and loosened the tongue of the man who believed. As Christians, we are filled with hope when we read about these kinds of miracles.
The more I contemplated this particular passage, the more the command resonated. In the weeks since that particular Gospel reading, I have spent more time than not contemplating the singular command.
As Catholic Christians, we are called to not just live our faith on Sundays and other Holy Days of Obligation. Rather than simply showing up for Mass, we are challenged to take our faith, deepen it both inside and outside the confines of the church, and we are tasked to carry it in all our actions. Being Christian is not supposed to be easy, nor is it supposed to constantly make us a victim. Rather, it is a call to radical conversion of our hearts, our minds, and ultimately our actions. As St. Augustine reminds us, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” We don’t pray for God to change the world; instead, we pray for strength and courage to go out and change the world.
In the real world, outside the walls of the church, mothers are involved in a mad dash trying to meet the needs of everyone in her life. More days than not, she winds up running on autopilot. The kids need to get to school on time, Mom herself may need to get to work, the meals need to be prepared, laundry and other household chores require completion, and then help with the homework and general hygiene maintenance. Moms — and, dads, too — juggle a lot on a daily basis. And, it is so easy to get into a groove where, unintentionally, she begins to just “do,” for everyone. Forsaking herself, for the good of others.
And yet, in Mark 7:34, Jesus mutters, “Ephphatha.”
In Mass, right before we hear the Gospel proclaimed, we do a Sign of the Cross, but not just any regular one. We do a small Sign of the Cross over our foreheads, asking God to open our heads to hear His word proclaimed. We make the Sign of the Cross over our lips, asking God to open our lips to allow His word to live on our lips, and for us to speak only His life-affirming words. We make the Sign of the Cross over our hearts, asking God to open our hearts to His love, and to express His love. In the simple actions directly preceding the Gospel, we are asking God for our own, personal Ephphatha miracle — that we “be opened!”
In order for Jesus to work miracles, He needs a willing heart. He asks for blind faith and trust in His ability to perform the miracle. And, he requires us to present ourselves to Him, not just on Sundays, but also every day.
In the fast-paced world in which we live, how can we “Be opened!” to living the will of God?
Simply stated, we can be more intentional. Yet, so many times, things are easier to say than to do. So, what does living intentional look like?
It shows in the care we put forth for our projects and our vocations.
If you are married, it means nurturing your vocation as a spouse. It means finding little ways to let your husband know he matters — not just to you, but to the family unit. It may be making his favorite food on a random night. It may be calling him “just to say I love you.” It may be in holding his hand or his arm, as you send the subliminal message that he’s your man. I recently met an elderly widow who spoke so fondly of “My Pilot,” that I was reminded that nurturing my vocation as a spouse could be as “simple” as saying only life-affirming, positive, respectful words about my spouse to others. Living intentionally as a spouse includes backing your spouse up, and building them up in front of your children. It means remembering things that are important to them, and checking in with them. It means being open to sometimes sacrificing your desires, so that their desires may be fulfilled. It means, as we face the trials and tribulations of the world around us, remembering what we’re told in Ephesians 5:31, “… the two shall become one flesh,” and meet the world around us united … as a team.
If you are a mother, living intentionally may take the vision of a servant-leader. Serving our children, and showing them through our example how to lead our families and those in our circles of influence. It may mean sneaking a treat, or special note, into a lunchbox. It may mean biting our tongue when we see they have discarded their dirty clothes on the floor for the hundredth time, and instead of losing patience, quietly and patiently picking the clothes up “this one time,” and putting them in the hamper. It means putting the phone or computer away, and focusing on a game your child/ren would rather play. It looks like letting the child choose the same annoying song, played on repeat, for the day.
If you are working or volunteering outside of the home, living intentionally means offering your entire gifts and talents to the work, as an offering to God. It means paying attention to the little details. It means producing the best work possible, in the time allotted. It means trying to extend mercy, compassion, and positivity to colleagues and peers. It means being focused on the job needing to be done. It means taking pride in the work you complete, as you offer the praise to God.
And, regardless of whether or not you fit the categories described above, living intentionally requires a copious amount of prayer. Not just the rote prayers we learn in school, but also the spontaneous, heartfelt prayer.
It looks like the small prayer on our heart for the panhandler in the parking lot. It is the small conversation with God about the elderly individual who needed a few more minutes of interpersonal interaction from you. It looks like the prayer you softly murmur over your child as you drop them off at school. It looks like the reminder set in your phone to pray for your spouse when you know he/she is heading home from work. It looks like the intentions you ask for, asking to be better parent or spouse.
Living a Catholic Christian identity is counter-cultural. Yet, when we commit to being opened to God, we are radically transformed. When we heed the command, “Ephphatha,” we begin to increase the moments where we are intentional — not just in our actions, but also in our words and prayer.
We stop running on autopilot, and start transforming the world around us, as we find ourselves transformed.
So, dear reader, heed the command.
Ephphatha. Be opened!
Invite Christ into your daily actions as you tackle the life He has invited you to live. Invite Christ into your routines, your worries or struggles, and your joyful moments. Approach God, and ask for Him to work miracles in your life. Ask Him to open your ears to hear Him, open your mouth to proclaim His word and love for all, and to open your hearts to feel Him and to express His love to others.
Through that, find yourselves transformed.
Ephphatha, dear reader. Ephphatha.
Copyright 2018 AnnAliese Harry