Homily for September 6

Homily for the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

(Audio for homily)

Sometimes the scriptures speak of miracles and healings
as if they happen every day – as if they grow on trees.
But they don’t.

Still, who among us hasn’t prayed for a  miracle?
For the cure of someone chronically or terminally ill?
For God to intervene in international affairs
to bring peace to war-torn lands?
food for the third world?
an end to violence in our streets?
Who hasn’t prayed this past week
for the refugees whose fragile boats are failing to make land
on the shores of freedom?

Does it seem unfair that the Lord would “tease” us
with promises of safe passage in Isaiah
and the miracle cure in the gospel?

Jesus did work many miracles
- but not in every place, nor for everyone.
The beginning of Mark’s gospel reports Jesus doing so many miracles
that he couldn’t escape the crowds following him.
But in this 7th of Mark’s 16 chapters, Jesus begins to pull back
on working miracles.
In the remaining 9 chapters he performs only 4 more.

His miracles are not ends in themselves:
all of Jesus’ physical miracles
are meant to be “signs” of interior change.
Ultimately Jesus came for our spiritual healing,
the healing of that within us that lasts forever.

The physical cures are “signs” of what he wants to work within us.
In today’s story he opens the ears and the voice of the deaf mute
as a sign of his desire to open us,
to open our whole selves to God.

There is, of course, nothing wrong in praying for miracles.
But the greater, deeper, longer-lasting healing of our souls
is truly Jesus’ purpose and is what’s most deserving of our prayer.
When Jesus takes the deaf mute aside from the crowd
he touches the man’s ears and tongue and says,
 “Ephphatha!”   “Be opened!”
I doubt there’s even one person here this morning
who doesn’t have something closed up within
that needs to be opened.

Perhaps that could be our prayer today:
to pray for the Lord to touch each of us and to open
what’s closed up, inside us.

I invite you to join me in just such a prayer.

Let us pray…

• Open me to your word, Lord,
when I’m too busy to listen for the sound of your voice.

• Open me to live with loss
when I think I have nothing left to live for.

• Open my soul to be patient with others -
as patient as you are with me.

• Open me to doing your will
when my own seems so much easier.

• Open me to walking your path
when my own way is what I prefer.

• Open my heart and soften it
when its hardened by grudging resentments.

• Open my mind in fairness and truth
when my thoughts are unyielding and stubborn.

• Open my wallet to serve those in need
as well as I care for myself and my own.

• Open my spirit to the simplest of joys
with my family and friends and with you.

• Open my grief to the touch of your healing
when I’m all closed in on myself.

• Open my imagination to thoughts good and pure
and weed out what doesn’t belong.

• Open my arms to those I’ve spurned
and help me forgive those who’ve hurt me.

• Open my eyes to see as you see
with compassion and understanding.

• Open my mouth to speak the just word
when injustice is right in my face.

• Open my faith to the wisdom of the ages
and to the Spirit who moves in my life every day.

• Open up, Lord, anything within me
that’s closed to you and your grace.

• Open up, Lord, anything within me
that’s closed to my neighbor’s needs.

• Open up, Lord, anything within me
that’s closed to your mercy and love.

• Open up, Lord, anything within me
that’s closed to what you desire for me.

I count 19 “Ephphathas,” 19 “openings” in that prayer.
They might not be as dramatic as Jesus healing of the deaf mute –
or, they might be even more so.
Each of those 19 openings is there for all of us.
All of us are in need of some of them,
some of us may be in need of all of them.
For some of us, even one or two of these might be a minor miracle!
Those openings are there for all of us who seek them from the Lord
and do what we can to open ourselves to his touch and his grace.

The  greatest opening of all is what’s offered for us and to us
in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist
where, in the breaking of the Bread and the sharing of the Cup,
the Lord opens himself to us in the sacrament of his presence
as he opened himself to us on the altar of the Cross.

Open us, Lord, all of us,
to what you share with us here at your Table. 

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