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Ephphatha: See and Love as God Sees and Loves

September 9, 2018

“‘Ephphatha’ by Thomas Davidson, 1872

A reflection on the 23rd Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year B. The readings are Isaiah 35:4-7a; Psalm 146; James 2:1-5 and Mark 7:31-37.

There was once a wise sage, a native elder, who asked his students to tell him how they could know the exact moment when the dawn had arrived: When was that precise moment when it was no longer night and it was now day. A student put up her hand. “I know teacher! I know that the dawn has arrived when there’s just enough light that if I see an animal 100 feet away I can tell whether it’s a dog or a deer.” “That’s very good,” said the teacher, “but that’s not the answer I was looking for.” Another student put up his hand. “I know, teacher! We know that the dawn has arrived when there’s just enough light that if we see a tree 50 feet away, we can tell whether it’s a fir tree or a spruce tree.” “That’s also good,” said the teacher, “but it’s not the answer I am looking for.” And so, other students had different ideas as to how to know the precise moment that the dawn had arrived, but none had the answer the teacher was looking for. So they asked, “Tell us teacher, what’s your answer? How do you know that the dawn has arrived?”

The teacher responded, “We will know that the dawn has arrived, when we look to the person sitting on our right and the person sitting on our left and we recognize them as brothers and sisters. When we do that, it won’t matter if it’s midnight or noon because it will always be the dawn, for our eyes, ears and hearts will have been opened and we will no longer judge or be judged.

In our first reading, Isaiah describes that same moment by saying that we will know because the eyes of the blind will be opened; the ears of the deaf will be cleared; the lame will leap and streams of water will burst forth in the desert.

In fact, in the Gospel of Luke, the disciples of John the Baptist go to Jesus to ask him if he is the Messiah. John had sent them to ask him if he was the one who was to come – and Jesus responds by saying, “tell John what you see, that the the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.…” (Luke 7-20-22). That’s how we know the dawn has arrived. In today’s Gospel the people say that Jesus has done all these things well!

But sadly, we’re not quite there yet because we still don’t see each and every person as our brothers and sisters. We are too busy playing favourites and making assumptions and judging people, as we hear in today’s second reading from the Letter of James. We don’t see each other as God sees us.

One of the best skills I learned – in Theatre School of all places – was how to tell the difference between judgement and fact. It’s an important skill to learn in theatre because when we watch or study a play or when we watch a movie or even when we read a book, we make all kinds of assumptions and judgments about the characters: Katniss is angry because of how her people are being treated; Hamlet is depressed because his mother and uncle killed his father. Those may be true, but they are assumptions that we make based on what the character says or does. They may not be true, because even if Hamlet says, “I’m sad”, he may be lying. So we don’t know if it’s a fact.

We do it in real life too – all the time. We’re always making judgments: I need to judge how quickly that light is going to turn red. But we have to be very careful when we do it with people.

If I tell you that Fr. Joe is a good priest; that is a judgement. It may be true, but it’s not necessarily a fact. It’s my opinion. All you can say as fact is that I said that he was a good priest. You can’t even say as fact that I think he’s a good priest, because I may have been lying.

If I say that Fr. Joe is not great at responding to emails, that’s a judgement. It may be true, but not necessarily. On the other hand, if I say, that Fr. Joe has never responded to my emails; that could be fact. But we go even further and we will even conclude that Fr. Joe is angry at me because he didn’t respond to my email. That is judgement! See the difference?

When John’s disciples came to Jesus to find out if He was the one, Jesus tells them to go and report, not a judgement – that He is the Messiah – but to report what they saw: the blind see, the deaf hear, the lepers are healed… That’s fact.

A fact is based on my own experience – how I experience something through my senses: What I hear, see, smell, taste and touch. I can see that you are wearing an old and dirty shirt and I can smell that you aren’t wearing deodorant; that’s fact. To conclude that you are poor, however, would be a judgement. I can hear that you are not a good speaker, but to assume that you are not educated would be a judgement. I can hear you say something nasty about someone else, but to conclude that you are evil, that’s judgement. But we do it all the time.

And way too often, not only do we make judgments, but we treat judgments as fact.

I’m working on a project about Mission and Evangelization and one of the bishops we spoke to, Louis Corriveau, Auxiliary Bishop of Quebec City told us that it used to be that the most important thing about evangelization was the message, the teaching: To tell the Good News. Now we are beginning to understand that when we evangelize, the most important thing is not the message, but the person that is sitting in front of me. That means we have to listen to them; get to know them and be present to them. We need to stop judging people based on how they dress, what they say, what they do or have done, based on how they speak or how educated they sound, whether we like what they say or agree with it – especially not based on what others say about them.

We need to stop making assumptions about people because we will never know their heart. We will never know their circumstances or the full story. And everyone has a story. Everyone has a heart.

Next time you receive the Eucharist, pray that Our Lord says “Ephphatha: Be opened!” and opens our eyes, our ears and our hearts so that we can stop judging each other and begin to see each and every person as a son and daughter of God and as our brothers and sisters, and treat them that way.

May we see and love everyone we come across as God sees them and loves them. May Christ help us be present to each other as He is present to us in the Eucharist. Then we will know that the dawn has arrived and whether it is noon or midnight, it will always be dawn: There will be streams of water in the desert, the lame will leap; the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf will be opened.

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From → English, Reflections

One Comment
  1. Diane Maloney permalink

    Tjank you Deacon I received compliments already on the story and it fir in really well, so Again Thank you and may God Bless your Day
    Diane HMJ

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