Rituals, Openness and the Messiah

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 7:31-37.

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis. 
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd. 
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
“Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly. 
He ordered them not to tell anyone. 
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it. 
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well. 
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”


There are Catholics who dismiss rituals in the Church. Those allergic to rituals in our liturgy should take note that Jesus was ritualistic too. When he healed the deaf man in today’s Gospel reading, He accompanied the healing with actions. The act of healing was played out in discrete actions of touching and a verbal command to “be opened!” These rituals are prophetic signs – they point to a greater reality that is happening.

Prophecy in the Bible is not just about predicting the future but pointing to a reality that is beyond the physical signs we encounter. At its heart is handing down to people the Word of God, His will and message. Jesus today is depicted as the Prophet, who acts prophetically but unlike the prophets of old, acts in His own Divine capacity as the Son and Messiah. St. Mark presents Jesus as renewing Creation when he alludes creation story’s “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good,”  (Genesis 1:31) with “he has done all things well,” but also using Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy (Isaiah 35:5) to say that the Messianic time has arrived.

The Messiah comes with great power and prophecy. He performs acts of healing: the deaf will hear and the mute will speak – a sign that He will overturn all evil in the world. Jesus calls us today to be open to Him, to unblock the ears of one’s heart that we may hear, and to unfurl one’s tongue that we too may prophecy in His name. For us who have been touched by God’s grace, the joy of encountering Christ compels us to spread the joy of the Gospel.


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