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Ephphata

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Isaiah 35:4-7a is a prophetic oracle about the Peace that God will give to Israel at the time of its vindication. When the people who witnessed what Jesus did to the deaf-mute they said something that echoed this passage of Isaiah: He has done all things well: the deaf hear and the mute speak (Isaiah 35:5-6). Mark wanted to convey the message that in Jesus’ healing miracle the Shalom that God reserves for those who love him has begun to break forth in human history.

What Jesus did in the miracle is being continued now by the Total Christ: Christ the Head of His Body, the Church. In the baptismal rite, the gestures of Jesus are repeated when the priest after laying on the hands, touches the ears and tongue of the candidate and says: “Ephphata. As Jesus opened the ears of the deaf and the mouth of the mute, so too may your ears be opened and your tongue be loosed so that what you hear you may believe and what you believe you may proclaim.” By those words we are empowered to publicly profess the faith.

The public profession of the faith is coming under threat. Pope Benedict XVI dedicates some paragraphs about it in Caritas in Veritate when he speaks about the state of religious freedom today. Benedict XVI speaks about the mindset that wants to put religion within a corner of the house and away from the public life.  As such, this is something external to the Church.  One big problem is that there are those who think that silent witnessing is enough.  The Marcan narrative about the healing of the deaf-mute speaks against this.

Verbal witnessing for the faith is integral to the work of the Church. This was underlined in Paul VI’s Evangelii Nuntiandi. Silent witnessing is not enough; one must also be prepared to give reason for one’s hope. And “hope” is the same as “faith”. We already know this from the Letter to the Hebrews: faith is the substance of things hoped for, the proof of things unseen (Heb. 11:1). The object of hope which is eternal life is already present like a seed; faith is the proof that it is there. Jesus opened up the ears of the deaf-mute because “faith comes from hearing”; he loosened the chains of the tongue that he may speak and give witness to the “hope of glory” guaranteed by that faith.

The proclamation of the faith is not just talking about the faith though. The mouth speaks from the fulness of the heart (cf. Matthew 12:34); the mouth speaks in proportion to what one has in one’s heart.

One speaks about something on three levels: the intellectual level, the emotional level and the gut-level. The intellectual level is like answering the question “How is the weather down there?”. At this point point one gives information for a specific question. The next level is emotional; the way one feels about something. One can say for example that this particular basketball team sucks or that movie was great! When one speaks from the guts, one brings out not only passion about what one believes but also talks about one’s convictions.

Witnessing for the faith really comes at all levels. One can give information; one asks what a Catholic believes about the rosary and one can explain it straight from the catechism. One can also talk about what one feels is difficult and is for the moment impractical, like when one is asked whether it would be opportune for the parish to have a mass in Latin. But one can also lay one’s cards on the table and speak one’s heart out, as would Paul when he rebukes the Galatians (“Ang tatanga ninyo!“) or when he gives proof of the sincerity of his love for the Corinthians. Verbal faith witnessing takes on different colors depending on what is needed at the moment: instructional, consolation or encouragement.

Ephphata. We have been empowered to give verbal witness. The work of evangelization requires it. Just as the Word of God is an event that is proclaimed, so too its proclamation must continue in our times through lips that speak from the fulness of the heart.

 

Originally posted 2009-09-06 01:21:48. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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