Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“Ephphatha” – be opened! This Greek variation of the Aramaic word spoken by Jesus is one of a few words left in the Gospel in its original form and followed by its translation. Notice that before Jesus speaks, he spits, puts his fingers in the deaf man’s ears, and touches the man’s tongue. It’s hard to say ephphatha without spitting, but that fact aside, the actions of Jesus and the fact that this word is included in its original language are significant.
First, we recognize that Jesus spoke a human language. Aramaic would have been his main language, but he was undoubtedly familiar with Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. These are real languages, and while we may not be particularly familiar with them, they illustrate the importance of the Incarnation. The second Person of the Blessed Trinity took on human flesh, spoke human language with a human voice, and so when we hear words He spoke in their original language, we are hearing an echo of the voice of Jesus Himself! I’ll always believe that there is a value to learning other languages, especially the languages of our ancestors, as they allow us to hear the voices of those who have gone before us.
Second, the act of spitting, touching the deaf man’s tongue, and putting His fingers in the man’s ears reminds us that in taking on our human flesh, Jesus has all of our physical attributes. He is close to us and able to understand us in a profound way. The healing power of the hands of Christ remind us of the healing power of doctors and nurses, those in the healing professions, and further remind us that nothing takes the place of the individual encounter. That is, we can learn much about Jesus from reading or hearing, but nothing replaces the heart to heart encounter. While we may not have Jesus spitting in our direction any time soon, we do have the opportunity to encounter Him in real, even physical ways, particularly in the sacrament of reconciliation and in the Eucharist. Our incarnate God truly remains close to us!
Finally, the meaning of “ephphatha”—be opened—is significant. Is this not the command Jesus speaks to our heart and mind each time we enter the church? Is this not the whole goal of the spiritual life? To be open to the power, mercy, love and working of Jesus in our lives is the greatest goal we can desire. To help this “opening” become more apparent, countless resources and opportunities exist. To name a few: FORMED.org, an online resource with videos, talks, books, and more. You can set up your own account at www.st-pius.formed.org. Our parish monthly gatherings for lifelong faith formation, beginning next weekend. Sign up is easy on our parish website. Christ Life, a seven-week program of formation for adults, which will be hosted here at St. Pius in collaboration with a dedicated team of parishioners from Holy Family Parish (http://www.holyfamilyrc.com/christlife). I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities, so that we can all hear Jesus speak that powerful word to our hearts: Ephphatha!