What are you usually doing at this time during lockdown? Fr. Brendan and I are usually watching the news at around 11.00 am to update ourselves about the situation around the country and to spend some time unpacking those situations. Fr Brendan points out that the significant person, who is always visible during any press conferences, is a sign language person who translates the information to the deaf and hard of hearing communities across the country. Today, we know that people who may be hard of hearing or have a speech impediment have many ways of being valuable members of society. Unfortunately, in Jesus’ time, that was not the case.
In today’s Gospel, we have heard the story of the encounter between a deaf person and Jesus. The setting was that a deaf person, who was also unable to speak, came to Jesus for healing and comfort. Jesus received his plea without a spoken word, taking him aside and healing him. Two people clearly understood one another without any verbal communication. ‘Ephphatha’ – ‘Be opened’ is the word that Jesus used; the deaf man was able to hear and communicate again.
This is a great story and a wonderful miracle that was told about Jesus and his ministry. Somehow, we are glued to this information and forget the significant message, ignoring the imagery of this story which is the ear to listen and the mouth to speak. Unpacking this Gospel, we ask the question: how is this story, which was written thousands of years ago, speaking to each one of us during this pandemic and especially during these coming years where the Church is going through a turbulent time?
‘Ephphatha’ – ‘Be opened’ – have our spiritual ears opened yet to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to the people of God in Australia? The spirit of the Plenary Council? Have our ears opened yet to receive enough, correct and even accurate information about the restructuring of parishes across the Archdiocese of Melbourne? Have we listened thoroughly on the matter of our faith, our community and our church? What has been blocking our ears in understanding our church? Ephphatha spirit invites us to listen intensively for the needs of our church, for the needs of our faith and local communities. It challenges us to open not only our ears but also our hearts – and open them totally in accepting the new changes, the new challenges that are happening in our times.
‘Ephphatha’ – are we able to speak or raise our concerns? Are we able to ask questions that are infuriating our minds? Are we able to discuss this with one another? Ephphatha’s spirit invites us to speak with freedom, truth, and of course in charity.
At the family level, Ephphatha – ‘be opened’ also invites us to listen and to speak to our loved ones. Listening to their concerns and hearing their views, supporting them physically and mentally during this challenging time that we find ourselves in. Who could do these things better than our father and the father figures in our families? Especially, this Sunday when we all say Happy Father’s Day to them, we ask God’s blessing upon them so that they can be a real listener and strong characters that each of us can rely upon.
Let us also remember our deceased fathers who completed their journey on earth and pray that God will welcome them into the heavenly kingdom.
Fr Trac Nguyen