Open up! This week’s readings point to the absolute Truth of Jesus being the Messiah. And this is the only place it happens in Scripture! Well, at least it is the icing on a pretty big cake of that Truth… Jesus does something this week He does not do anywhere else in the Gospels. You gotta hear it to believe it! This week we answer the question, “What does “ephphatha mean?” and so much more. In fact, you get to know how to pronounce it, why it is so important to our Catholic faith, and what it means to all of us! Be opened by thes scripture readings that are so entwined we can’t help but know they are from God! And learn a bit about Old and New Testament geography while you are at it!
Our activity this week is simple yet profound, and the follow-up activity really places us in the moment we should always be in: Open.
What Does Ephphatha Mean? Be Opened!
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Catechesis At Home – Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B
What Does Ephphatha Mean? Be Opened!
What it mean to us in this week’s lesson is what our discussion and activities are all about.
DISCUSSION – Ephphatha Means Jesus is the Christ
Jesus does and says (as usual!) an amazing thing in this week’s Gospel story. But this amazing thing is unique: He heals a deaf man. We are so accustomed to hearing the healing miracles of Jesus that we might think this is one of several instances that Jesus heals a deaf person. This is actually the only story of Him healing a deaf person. And believe it or not, nowhere in the Old Testament is anyone healed of deafness! The prophesy of Isaiah in this week’s first reading is telling the People of Israel what to look for in the Messiah – He will heal, and it specifically states the ears of the deaf will be cleared or unstopped (Isaiah 35:5b). Jesus is the only person in the Bible who does this! This is the icing on the cake, revealing His Messiahship, His Divinity! This is why at the end of our Gospel reading, the people of the Decapolis (see the note below) “were exceedingly astonished and they said, ‘He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’”
Jesus is the Christ, the Holy One of God. That’s what we heard last week from Peter. This week’s miracle is one of many confirmations but a unique one only witnessed by those at this specific time (see the note below). Jesus came to save us from the power of sin and death and Hell. To accept this gift of salvation, we must BE OPEN to the grace He pours out. Our response to His invitation to follow Him, to be His disciple, and bring others to Him (as the friends of the deaf man brought him to Jesus) will determine if we actually get to Heaven. In a funny way, not only do we need to open the gift He has given us, we have to allow Him to open us – we must willingly give ourselves to Him as an unconditional gift.
Within the Baptismal Rite is the Ephphatha rite (see the note below). The priest or deacon touches the ears and mouth of the person to be baptized and says, “Ephphatha: that is, be opened, that you may profess the faith you hear, to the praise and glory of God.” For those Baptized as an infant or young child, this was done immediately after their Baptism. Those Baptized as an older child or adult go through this rite before the Sacrament. The point is that all Baptized Catholics have been opened. The key to being a disciple of Jesus Christ is that we remain open. So, how do we remain open? We offer ourselves to God, we participate in the Sacraments, we live our faith, we pray. Prayer is essential in this – it is how we relate to God. This relationship we have with God, our Father, is built through prayer.
ACTIVITY – Ephphatha Means We Can Allow Jesus to Open Us
This week, spend time in prayer – individually and as a family or group of friends. Pray for God to open you in ways you haven’t yet been opened. Pray that you can trust Him. Because it does take trust to open ourselves to another, even a Perfect Other. Be open to Him, who takes away the sins of the world, and promises us eternal life. Don’t know what to pray? Say this softly under your breath, every few minutes, remaining quiet in-between: “Ephphatha.”
FOLLOW-UP ACTIVITY – Ephphatha Means I Can Bring Others to Jesus
Just as the deaf man’s friends brought him to Jesus for healing, think of someone you can bring to Jesus. Maybe physically we can actually pick someone up and bring them to Mass this week.
Maybe spiritually we need to bring someone to Jesus through prayer. For married people, it is our duty to bring our spouse and our children to Jesus. Think of how we do that on a daily basis, and do it. Can we do more? Fir single people, we need to ask who has God put in our life to journey with, together to Him? Take time this week and be intentional with others about the journey of life to God in heaven.
[i] “Ephphatha” is the Aramaic word used by Christ in this week’s Gospel (Mark 7:34). It is the ‘ethpa`al imperative of pethach (Hebrew pathach), translated, “Be (thou) opened”; compare Isaiah 35:5 “unstopped”. The Aramaic was the colloquial language of the Decapolis and the writer saying Christ using it shows that this is a first-hand report of an eyewitness, who was moved by the dialectic form of the word that Jesus used. This word form use and Jesus’ touching with his moistened finger is the direct basis of the Catholic Baptism Rite.
From Julius Caesar’s time to the end of the first century AD, the Decapolis was an area of ten cities where Greek and Roman culture were mixed but the most common language was Aramaic at Jesus’ time. It is not by mistake that Jesus was here when he performed this one-time miracle, as a vast amount of people would understand what He did and what He said. They would also be aware of Jesus and His miracles, as the man Jesus exorcised of the demons in Mark 5:1-20 (cf. Matthew 8:28-34 and Luke 8:26-39) had gone off to his home in the Decapolis to tell his neighbors (Mark 5:11)
Read some general information about the area of The Decapolis at Wikipedia.
LEARN MORE – Other Ephatha-related items of interest from Holy Owned and Operated:
Links open in a new tab or window according to your settings so that you can compare and continue in this lesson’s theme.
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Podcast: Family Prayer: What and How
Podcast: Family Prayer: Why
Helping Anyone Grow in Their Catholic Faith
The Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord
Rising Very Early
What do Catholics Believe About Creation?
Jesus Feeds Us From Our Offerings
What Does Ephphatha Mean to You? How Does Jesus Open You?
by Beth & Kristofer Cowles