One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

September 10, 2006

For the Twenty-Third Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Mark 7:31-37

Christ worked some miracles just by speaking.
For instance, one time he simply told a dead girl, “Get up”, and she got up.
On another occasion, he healed someone from a distance just by speaking.
For instance, at the request of a Roman officer, Christ simply said, in effect, “It’s done”, and the officer’s servant at home was healed.
Today, the miracle in the Gospel is complex, intricate … methodical … and a little strange.
The miracle shows Christ to be heavenly and mystical, but at the very same to be quite earthy and physical.
People bring him a deaf man who also cannot speak.
They beg Christ to lay his hand on him.
First, Christ takes him away from the crowd.
Second step, he puts his finger into the man’s ears.
Third, Christ spits.
Fourth step, he touches the man’s tongue.
Fifth, Christ looks up to heaven.
Sixth step, he groans.
Seventh, Christ says, “Open up!”
SEVEN steps!
The Gospel tells us Christ is looking up to heaven when he groans and then says, “Open up!”
The original language of the Gospel does not make it clear whether Christ is saying “Open up!” to heaven or to the deaf man— or to both heaven and the deaf man.
Christ stuck his finger into the man’s ears, then he spat and touched the man’s tongue, but he did NOT immediately speak any words of healing.
After sticking his fingers into the man’s ears and mouth, Christ looked up to heaven and GROANED.
Christ GROANED to heaven on behalf of the deaf man.
As Christ is touching the deaf man but LOOKING UP into heaven and groaning, we can see that Christ is an earthy, physical mediator, a bridge, a “go-between.”
He touches the deaf man with his fingers, and he touches heaven with his eyes and his groaning.
When Christ looks up to heaven, he is turning to the Father.
Then, when Christ groans, it is the Spirit of communion between the Father and Son— the Spirit of communion who is praying in Christ and with Christ to the Father in heaven.
As the Testament of Christ puts it, “the Spirit himself intercedes … with groans too deep for words” [Rm. 8:26].
Then— in the Spirit of communion, in the unity of the Holy Spirit— then and only then does Christ the Bridge speak the Hebrew word Éphphatha— ”Be opened!” or, “Open up!”
This utterance— “Open up,” or, “Be opened”— is both the PRAYER of Christ to the Father on behalf of the deaf man, as well as the COMMAND of Christ to the deaf man on behalf of the Father.
By the touch of his hands and the sound of his voice, Christ bridges heaven and earth; Christ mediates between heaven and earth.
Christ connects heaven and earth … with his VOICE … and his BARE HANDS.
He is God’s Word in person— God’s Word who— by the power of the Holy Spirit— has become a flesh and blood man who touches and spits, touches and groans.
By the power, then, of the same Holy Spirit, the groaning voice of Christ on earth echoes in heaven.
By the power of the same Holy Spirit, the touch of Christ’s hands and the sound of his voice reach into heaven, and, at the same time, give integrity to the hearing and speech of a deaf man.
The Gospel tells us the amazement of the crowd at this miracle, went beyond all bounds.
The crowd says of Christ:
He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.

WE know, however, that in Christ— even as a man of flesh and blood— in Christ HEAVEN ITSELF also hears and HEAVEN ITSELF also speaks.
In Christ, heaven is open.
That is an essential detail of the Good News— the Gospel: that heaven, God himself, God’s heart, is entirely open for US.
That is the message that the Spirit groans out to US through Christ, through the Gospel, the Scriptures, the Church, the Liturgy and the Sacraments.
However, this NEWS that GOD’S heart is entirely open is at the same time a COMMAND that OUR hearts be opened.
The obedient opening of our hearts is the only way to receive the Gospel and the Kingdom of God.
The Holy Spirit of unity opens our hearts if we freely choose to cooperate.
We cooperate and we prepare our hearts by laying aside all other assurances, all other sources of security, all other sources of comfort and confidence— and that is a lifetime’s work.
Since the Spirit of unity and power is already at hand, we can and must labor to put in order and purify our hearts for the sake of the only real and lasting source of security and confidence;
That source is faith in the mystery of God whose love for us does not depend on us.
God’s love is the same as his freedom, his good will and his fidelity.
God’s love cannot end or diminish or be taken away.
That is the Good News for which the deaf ears of our hearts need to OPEN UP.
The silent LIPS of our impeded hearts need to OPEN UP to gratefully proclaim God’s goodness— especially as we offer and celebrate the Eucharist in which GOD’S OPEN HEART comes to us.
In his Eucharist, Christ both touches us in his real Body and Blood just as he touched the man who was deaf and mute.
In his Eucharist, Christ groans in the Spirit to the Father on our behalf.
In his Eucharist, by the power of the Holy Spirit:
… Christ is the means— the WAY— of Communion between the Father and us;
… Christ is the LIFE— the LIVING Communion between the Father and us;
… Christ is the TRUTH— the REAL Communion between the Father and us.
In his Eucharist, Christ still stands mediating between heaven and earth.
In his Eucharist, God’s ears are open to us.
In his Eucharist, he heals us and saves us with his bare hands.

That God Be Glorified in All


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