Brothers and Sisters in Christ, In today’s Gospel, we see an odd account of Jesus healing a deaf and mute man. He sticks His fingers in the man’s ear and spits on his tongue and says “be opened” (in Aramaic, ephphatha). It strikes us as funny, like something from a Three Stooges scene. It was not unusual for Jesus and the prophets of the Old Testament to use specific gestures to make a point or perform a healing. See, for instance, Ezekiel 5, 12 and 37 and Jeremiah 13, 16, 19, 27 and 28. Jesus also healed a blind man in John 9 by spitting on the ground and rubbing mud on the man’s eye. In the case of today’s Gospel, it may have been the case that Jesus wanted to heal the man in a way that he could understand. After all, being deaf and mute, he could not hear Jesus’ words nor ask Jesus to heal him. This is not a barrier to Jesus as He can heal in many different ways. The healings in the Gospel are a fulfillment of the messiah figure prophesied in the Book of Isaiah. We hear this in today’s first reading from Isaiah 35:4-7. We also see it prophesied in Isaiah 29 and 33. But the objective of Jesus’ healing is more than physical. He heals in order that this man will hear the saving message of God and proclaim it with his mouth. There is a portion of our Catholic baptismal ritual that for infants has been inspired by this passage from today’s Gospel. After the Baptism and anointing with chrism, there is a part called the ephphatha rite. The priest or deacon touches the ears and the mouth of the child and says: “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.” The significance of this action reminds the parents, godparents and all involved in the child’s life that Christ will speak His word, through His Church, to the newly baptized child. Once the word is heard, the baptized child is meant to grow into a Christian disciple, proclaiming the faith to those he or she encounters in their life. Discipleship is the first call and responsibility of all the baptized. We know that it will be many years before the baptized infant can take up this baptismal call. Therefore, it is up to the parents to make sure that their child hears the word of God proclaimed each Sunday at Mass and is faithfully taught the Catholic faith. If not, the child will not be equipped with the tools necessary to be a Christian disciple. Such is the responsibility of parents. The responsibility to be a follower of Christ lasts for all of our lives and we have an obligation to hear the Word of God and be formed by it through the teaching of the Church. We need this guidance. It gives us direction and assurance so that we can fulfill our primary vocation. Soon our parish, along with St. John the Baptist parish, will begin an RCIA program. RCIA stands for Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. It is a course of study and prayer for those who are interested in becoming Catholic or for Catholics who have never received the Sacraments of Confirmation or Holy Communion. The plan is to meet on Sundays from 12:30-1:30 p.m. at St. John the Baptist in the library, beginning Sunday, September 23. If you know of any such person, please have them contact the parish office, 614-294-5319, or my email rkitsmiller@ columbuscatholic.org, to register. If you are interested in assisting with the catechesis, please contact me as well.
God bless you all.
Administrator Pro Tem