“Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature”
(Mark 16: 15)
Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing so, remain
“Ephaphatha! Be Opened!”
Ordinary 23 Year B St. Mark 7: 31 to 37
1. Jesus took the deaf man “off by himself away from the crowd”.
All through history into our own time, false “messiahs” have appeared making claims about what they do and say. There seems hardly an exception to the rule that they stage-manage their political or religious performance to gain maximum exposure to the public who follow them as “pied pipers” drawing people by their music and incantations.
The real Messiah, the real Jesus, stands out in strong contrast. He seeks to draw people who listen to Him and believe His teaching — they obey, His instruction. They follow Him because He has the Words of Life, a rabbinic phrase for the Torah, the Path God has laid down in the Sacred Scriptures for mankind to follow. Miracles happen daily, but they always point to the Divine Word — the Living Word dwelling among His people. These people hunger for that Word, that Bread of Life. They are not addicted to trapesing from one miracle campaign to another to satisfy their curiosity.
When Jesus takes someone aside it is to focus on their needs and faith, rather than remain in the gaze of His admirers who want to be aroused by seeing what they regard as magic before their eyes!
2. The people begged Jesus “to lay His hand on” the deaf man.
Jesus is a Master of beautiful ritual and ceremony. The laying on of hands is one of the oldest Hebrew rituals. It includes, depending on circumstances, the raising of hands and arms as well as lowering them on to another person’s body. It can also incorporate bowing to God, kneeling and lowering the forehead to the ground as a means of seeking a special blessing on a person.
Some Christians, for whatever reason have distanced themselves as much as possible from the ancient rituals and ceremonies of our Hebrew forebears. Some have tried to recapture their spiritual significance by using them whenever emotion rises during their worship. But bodily actions and accompanying customs have an even greater meaning for people who are spiritually minded.
We need to be very aware of how important it is in our Hebrew Christian heritage of worship, to show that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (body).
Our Gospel incident shows us that when ritual and ceremony are correctly used, they help prevent us being drawn into ungodly activities and life-styles. They reinforce the presence and power of God, and release us from bondage which would otherwise confuse us and keep us focussed on ourselves, absorbed in our own desires.
3. Jesus “ordered them not to tell anyone”.
The last thing Jesus wanted to be known as was a “wonder-worker”. In the case of false messiahs, it is, or course, the first thing they want to be known for. That applies to religious, commercial or political would-be “messiahs”.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus is profoundly moved by the intense frustration and suffering of a most unfortunate man. In fact, in a regular part of His ritual — looking up to heaven — He “groaned”. His empathy for the affected man was expressed in a deep sigh of joint-suffering, so profound, so strongly felt, it simply had to be expressed.
Yet, having said all of this, we have to note that our Lord was also deeply concerned that the superficial people who were more taken by signs and wonders than by His teaching, would be diverted from listening to Him, and instead, seek miracles to titivate their senses.
Time and time again we will witness our Lord turning His disciples, especially His chosen twelve, back to the Scriptures and how they are being fulfilled in Him. There has always been a problem with excitement over signs and wonders diverting people’s interest and energy from a disciplined study of the Scriptures on to the “amazing” , the “wonderful”, the “entertaining”. There may be no greater crisis in the Church today than all manner of deviant distraction from knowing and living the Gospel message in favour of the popular and fascinating.
Let us pray for one another that we will be able to turn from distracting pursuits, and give our whole attention to the profound messages in Sacred Scripture awaiting our interest and attention.