Believing Is Seeing
Reflections and Actions for the Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
Isaiah 35:4-7; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37
Ephphatha is a word Jesus actually spoke to each one of us – and it had more effect then than it did on the deaf man in the Gospel. During our Baptism, Jesus, acting in and through the minister, touched our ears with his hand and spoke to us the word, ephphatha, which means, "Be opened," praying that our ears might be opened to hear the words of God.
This was not just a prayer made by the minister of our Baptism. The fact is, Baptism actually gives us a power to hear that we did not have before – not a physical power, but the ability to hear and understand words of God to which we would naturally be stone deaf (see Matthew 13: 14-6). This is a greater miracle than the cure of physical deafness.
Faith is not just a judgment on our part that something is believable. It is more than a decision to say something is true. What we call the gift of faith is the gift of sharing in God's own knowing act. By faith we know what God knows, and we know it with the certitude God has about it, because we share in God's own act of knowing it. This comes from being united to Jesus Christ as members of his Body, and sharing in his divine life by the gift of grace.
Before this gift a person is like an unlit candle – able to receive light but not yet enlightened. Before we receive the light of Christ (which means before we begin, as members of his Body, to share with him in his own act of knowing), we can no more hear the truth of Jesus' divine teaching than we can see without eyes. We are not equipped to understand or believe truths on the level of God. We might decide to accept some of the teachings in the gospel, and hold to them with human conviction, but this is not the same as the absolute adherence of faith. And some truths – like the doctrine of the cross and love for enemies who are oppressing and killing us – would be utterly beyond us (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-31). Even with the gift of faith we need to pray deeply to accept all of the teaching of Jesus. That is because faith is the act of seeing what God alone can see. It is a power to hear which we can only have through surrender – surrender to his light, his love, his life.
An immeasurable amount of the evil, the pain and suffering in this world comes from the fact that Christians who can hear do not listen or speak out. We who have received the light of faith do not use it to look through the eyes of Christ at the realities of our time. Saint James reproached the early Christians for discriminating between the rich and the poor (see James 2:1-5). We discriminate between blacks and whites; between immigrant ethnic groups and the established social class; between non – threatening sinners to be converted and dangerous criminals to be executed; between loved ones to be protected and enemies to be destroyed in war. We discriminate between our own national interests and the aspirations of impoverished, deprived peoples. And because we do not show the same loving concern for the bad and the good, the just and the unjust, for those who are close to us and those who are not (see Matthew 5: 38-48), we do not bear the witness on earth that we should bear to the way of truth Christ taught. We do not lead. That is probably the one greatest reason for the crisis the world is in right now.
This crisis moved Pope John XXIII to convene Vatican Council II. He attributed the crisis of our times to the fact that people are trying to "reorganize society without God." Who are these people? Not just the Communists, the Arab terrorists and the I.R.A., but all who are trying to solve problems and promote their interests without the light of Christ – in business and politics, in family and recreational life. The world is in darkness because it is trying to see without light, and the blind are leading the blind because those who have the power to see and to hear will not lead them. That is why we need to be disciples.
Reflecting on This Week's Gospels
Pray daily: Lord, you opened my ears at Baptism. Now open my heart that I might understand all I hear and live out all I understand. Let me increase the light of your truth in the world.
Monday: Luke 6:6 – 11. Looking around at them all, he then said to him, "Stretch out your hand." Do you want to "stretch out" your heart and be challenged by Jesus' words? Or do you just want to keep "in bounds"?
Tuesday: Luke 6:12 – 19. Everyone sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all. What power do you believe Jesus has for you? How do you seek to touch him? When? How is he available to you?
Wednesday: Luke 6:20 – 26. "Woe to you who are full now, / for you will be hungry." What makes you feel most fulfilled? For what do you hunger? When do your efforts to fill yourself leave you most empty?
Thursday: Luke 6:27 – 38. "[G]ive, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back." Do you experience the joy and power of Christ's grace in abundance? How much time do you give to learning from him?
Friday: Luke 6:39 – 42. "Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?" When you judge others for their faults, which is worse: what you are seeing or what you are doing? Do you look in yourself for the roots of the same faults that you see in others?
Saturday: Luke 6:43 – 49. "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I tell you?" How often each day do you consciously think of something Jesus himself taught? What could you do to make yourself more conscious of his teachings?
Living This Week's Gospels
As Christian: Consciously make an act of faith in everything Jesus teaches. Then ask Jesus to be your Teacher of life. Invite him seriously.
As Disciple: Spell out – in terms of time and space what you, on your part, are willing to do in order to learn from Jesus.
As Prophet: Write down three things you accept as the teaching of Jesus which are on a higher level of idealism than common Church teaching requires you to accept. If you cannot find three, make some choices.
As Priest: Make a point of not discriminating against anyone because of race or ethnic origin. Take one step to break through the separation that you inherited from society.
As King: Ask what would be different in your work, social life or family if you constantly brought everything you do under the light of Christ's teachings. Take a step toward changing something.