September 5, 2021 ~ 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This weekend Sr. Dorothy Fabritze, M.S.S.C., will speak at all the Masses as part of the Archdiocesan Mission Cooperative. Her order was founded by St. Frances Xavier Cabrini as a missionary order, which continues to spread God’s love throughout the world. We are all called to be missionaries, but the model for us is Jesus Himself.

At the center of today’s Gospel (Mk 7:31-37), there is a small but important word that sums up Christ’s whole message and all his work: “Ephphatha”, which means “be opened.” In the Gospel, Jesus was crossing, as a missionary, into pagan territory, into the region known as Decapolis, between the coast of Tyre and Sidon and Galilee. There He healed a deaf-mute. Jesus took him aside and touched his ears and his tongue and then, looking up to heaven, said with a deep sigh: “Ephphatha.” Then the man immediately began to hear and to speak plainly.

Thanks to Jesus, the deaf-mute “was opened”; previously he had been closed, isolated, and alone. It was very difficult for him to communicate. For him healing meant an “opening” to others and to the world, an opening which, starting with the organs of hearing and speech, involved his whole self and his life. After meeting Jesus, he could finally communicate and relate to others in a new way.

However, we all know that a person’s closure and isolation do not only depend on the physical, sense organs. There is an inner closure that affects the person’s inmost self, which the Bible calls the “heart.” Often, our hearts are closed to God. Jesus came to “open” our hearts, so that He might speak to us heart-to-heart, allowing us to live to the full our relationship with God and with others. 

This is why this passage can be said to sum up Jesus’ whole ministry: the Word became Flesh so that man, rendered inwardly deaf and mute by sin, might be able to hear God’s voice and, in turn, learn from Jesus to speak the language of love and to communicate with God and with others. 

For this reason, the word and the action of the “ephphatha” have been integrated into the Rite of Baptism as one of the signs that explain its meaning. The priest or deacon, touches the mouth and ears of the newly baptized person, saying: “ephphatha”, praying that he or she may soon hear the word of God and profess the faith to the praise and glory of God.

Baptism is a reminder of the call to holiness. The saints are men and women who were truly open to God. This Tuesday, we will have a talk by Fr. Carlos Martins, and an exposition of sacred relics: “Treasures of the Church”. See details elsewhere in the bulletin. Fr. Carlos is a long-time friend, and I know many people who have been healed through his prayers or by praying with him and with the relics of the saints. I cannot say enough about this opportunity. Do not miss it! 

Finally, Monday is Labor Day. Mass will be offered at 9:15 am on Monday. It is a day to thank God for all those who work to provide for us and for our families. It is a day for us to pray, especially that the rights and dignity of workers may be respected, and to pray for all those who do not have work. It is also a day, like every Sunday, for us to rest, recognizing that work is relative to the dignity of the person. That is, even before we do a single thing, we have dignity in simply being sons and daughters of God. May we follow the example of the saints in being open to God and setting our minds, hands, and hearts to doing God’s work!

-Fr. Fernandes

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