Friday, 14 February 2020

Week 5 Friday (Year 2)

The Aramaic term used here, Ephphatha, has found its way into the baptismal liturgies of the Church. One of a series of gestures and symbols that bring out the meaning of baptism, the ephphatha means the newly baptised infant has his or her mouth and ears touched to indicate that the Church looks forward to the day when they will hear the Word of God for themselves and profess the faith with their own lips.

The miracles of sensation recorded in the gospels - the blind see, the deaf hear, the dumb speak - are all connected with faith, and so with baptism. It is not just that they come about as a result of faith, they also symbolise faith. Faith means hearing human words bearing God's Word. It means seeing created reality revealing God's reality. It means confessing with our lips what we have come to believe in our hearts.

He has done all things well, the people say of Jesus, he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak. Through the gift of faith, celebrated in baptism, he continues to do this - enables the deaf to hear God's Word, the dumb to speak God's praise, the blind to see God's presence.

Of course Eve and Adam had their eyes opened in another way, as we are reminded by today's first reading. They wanted to gain wisdom, something the serpent promised would come to them by eating the fruit in disobedience to God's command. They would become like gods, he says, knowing good and evil.

And they do come to know good and evil, but from the perspective of evil. They seek to lay their hands on wisdom and in doing so distort their fuller vision even as it is born.  The mission of Jesus is to enable men and women to receive the wisdom he brings which means seeing good and evil but now from the perspective of good. This is the more comprehensive knowledge, deeper, more radical, stronger and more coherent.

The distorted wisdom gained through the fall of Adam and Eve disturbs all hearing, all seeing, all speaking. The anxiety generated by their realisation of nakedness can be taken to refer to a more extensive unsettling of an earlier equilibrium, an unsettling that leaves them unhappy in their bodies and so not seeing, not hearing, not speaking well.

The line is clear, then, from God's original intention in creating man and woman in His image and likeness. The plan is disturbed by the serpent's cunning and human weakness. Jesus restores the balance, but not without a great struggle. He is the choicest fruit of the Father, good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.

All who need help in hearing, seeing or speaking can come to him. Ephphatha, he says, be opened, so that we may hear the Word of life, see the truth He brings, speak words of wisdom and compassion learned from Him.

You can listen here to this homily being preached

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