Cardinal Ratzinger made a statement a number of years ago concerning the Catholic Church’s relationship with other Christian churches. What he said was, “The Catholic Church is not a “sisters church” to all other churches, rather the Catholic Church is the “Mother Church” because, from Her, all other churches emerged.”
It is a historical fact that the only church from the time of the apostles until 1054 was the Catholic Church. In 1054, the Orthodox church separated from the church of Rome because the patriarchal Bishop of Constantinople regarded himself as equal to the Bishop of Rome. After the break, the substantial teachings of the Orthodox church remained the same as the church of Rome from which she separated. The Orthodox kept intact the basic teachings of Jesus as well as the Mass and the Seven Sacraments.
Not until the 15th century did the other protestant churches form as various groups within the Catholic Church begin to “protest” some of the teachings of the church – so they broke away from us. Obviously, the Catholic Church is the only Apostolic church originating directly from Jesus and the apostles. Many today deny these historical facts and pretend that they do not exist.
Today, from the Gospel, Jesus cries out to us as he cried out to the deaf man “be open”. Our readings today call us to re-examine what God has done in the past, to be open to what God is doing in our midst now, and to have faith and hope for what God will do for us in the future.
For Isaiah in the first reading, it was the end of the exile in Babylon, and the beginning of hope – hope for a new existence and freedom in the promised land. There were new possibilities and new experiences on the horizon, “Be strong, fear not” is His message for the exiles and for each one of us!
For James in the second reading, there is a message of hope for the poor – who are despised by society and hope for each one of us who trusts in Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church.
In the Gospel, Jesus gives hearing to a deaf man. The Kingdom of God had come! The blind were seeing; the deaf were hearing; the lame were leaping and the dumb were singing. The day that Isaiah longed for in the Old Testament era had finally come. In Jesus Christ, the Old Testament promises were being fulfilled!
In the Gospel, deafness had ostracized the man from others; his disability kept him in isolation. He was difficult to understand, he was afraid of trying to speak in public because he would be laughed at. Jesus took the man away from the crowd, touched his tongue, and commanded, “Be opened!” The man was able to hear and began to speak clearly, and he was freed from his silent prison, and freed from his fear.
Jesus freed the man from his silent prison and now the man was free. The deaf man in today’s Gospel was born with his disability, but there is a kind of spiritual deafness that people can drift into and become comfortable with. That is the reason why Saint Mark included a miracle story in his Gospel. The people in the early church needed to hear this story. They were facing persecution by the civil authorities for their faith in Jesus Christ. They needed to be freed from their fear so that they could preach Christ crucified, openly and clearly, by word and deed. “Be opened!” Was the liberating message of Jesus to them in their need.
Many Catholics today have “hearing problems”. We claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, but sometimes live as though we have never heard of him. His teachings are turned on and off like a faucet in the kitchen, or flushed away like garbage into the sewer. How easily we hear what we want to hear and believe what we want to believe!
‘Be opened!” This is what Jesus says to us today. Be cured of the blindness that prevents seeing the truth and the light. Be cured of the deafness that closes our hearts to the teaching of Jesus and his church. Be cured of the lameness which hinders us from walking in the steps of the one who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.
Jesus came to say to each one of us, “Ephphatha!” “Be opened!” Jesus came to say to each one of us, “Ephphatha!” “Be opened!” Look beyond the physical healing of the man in the gospel today, and see the transforming power of God’s love for him. In the midst of all the limitations and hurts we have experienced in our lives, in the midst of the hands of the clock ticking toward our counter with Christ in judgment in the moment of our death, with the man in the gospel today, we put our faith and trust in God’s promise that; all is worthwhile, that the power of God’s love is working in our lives to transform sorrow into joy, and sickness into health; death into new life.
God wants all of us to understand that: the future is open for each one of us. That He is leading us our pilgrimage to the house of Our Father; that as the present moment spills into the future, He is offering us the fullness of eternal life. The transforming resurrection power of God who loves us will have the last word! “Ephitha!” “Be opened!”