Mark: 7:31-37
'Tomorrow is another day' to know the word of God by Rev. Paul Grankauskas

Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis.  And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.  He took him off by himself away from the crowd.  He put his finger into the man's ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, Ephphatha! - that is, "Be opened!" - And immediately the man's ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.  He ordered them not to tell anyone.  But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.  They were exceedingly astonished and they said, "He has done all things well.  He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak."

I have been a huge "Star Wars' fan since I first saw the original movie 30 years ago.  As a kid, it was not unusual to imagine a whiffle ball bat was a lightsaber and a squirt gun a laser pistol.  In high school, camouflage briefly became the color choice for school apparel after the second "Rambo" movie was released. 

Finally, it is not unusual in my family to face conversations with movie quotes or references.  What is true for my family, however, can be true for our culture as a whole.  Thank about how many classi9c film quotes or scenes have become a part of everyday vernacular: Clark Gable's famous last words to Vivien Leigh in "Gone with the Wind"; Dorothy's maxim, "There's no place like home"; and Arnold's, "I'll be back!"  I cannot even tell how many conversations late have included "The Princess Bride."  These are things that seem permanently embedded in our psyches.

All of this is simply a way of saying that we can be profoundly influenced by what we see and hear, perhaps more than we realize.  Sometimes we have to stop and think about what we are actually letting in.  What is it that is truly directing and forming my thoughts, words and actions?

In this week's Gospel, a group of people bring before Jesus a deaf man with a speech impediment.  It should be noted that the man is a Gentile.  He is healed, and Our Lord instructs the people not to say anything about it.  Mark tells us that the people - presumably including the man himself - could not keep quiet about it.  This was simply too astonishing.

Of note here is the word that Jesus speaks as he touches the man's eyes and ears: "Ephphatha," or "Be opened."  These words have since found their way into the liturgical life of the Church.  During the rite of infant baptism, the minister may touch the baby's mouth and ears and say the following words: "The Lord Jesus Christ made the deaf hear and the dumb speak.  May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith."  The prayer concludes by saying that in listening to and speaking the word of God, we glorify God, just like those who witnessed the healing of the deaf man.

We can be pretty diligent about remembering something from a song or movie, but what about the Scriptures, the inspired word of God?  There are stories of saints who memorized portions of the Bible.  This was not done simply to have quotes to toss around and look pious, but so that the word of God would guide and form th saint's every thought, word and action.  The word of God became the native language of the saint.

There is something to be learned from this.  It is no secret that there is much out there on television, the Internet, the radio, even in magazines that vie for our attention.  Much of it - not all of it - is vulgar, crude, violent, pornographic and grotesque.  These images can easily become logged in our imaginations and thoughts.  But we have the antidote.  In the Incarnation, the divine Word speaks to us clearly and personally, bringing us truth, goodness, beauty and everlasting life ... if our ears are open to hear it and our hearts open to receive.    A good place to start is participating fully in the Liturgy of the Word at Mass each Sunday.  Fretting about people coming late for Mass seems like such a small thing, but the truth is, we are missing the banquet of God's word.  God's word is food for the soul as much as the Eucharist.

Of course, participation in the Liturgy of the Word is only the beginning.  We must undertake our own study of the word of God.  Memorizing passages is not such a bad idea.  We do not do so simply for the sake of memorizing the passage.  Rather, like the great saints, we do so to order to make the word of God a living, active presence in our lives.  For example, St. Benedict instructed in him monastic rule that a part Psalm 95 should be a part of monk's daily prayer life.  "Today listen to the voice of the Lord and harden not your heart."  Again, it was not simply a matter of memorizing the line.  These were words for the monk to live by.  The goal should be same for us as it is for those we honor as saints - to make the word of God the guiding force in our thoughts, words and actions.

In the end, we should let it be said of us as St. Paul once wrote about the Thessalonians: "We thank God constantly that in receiving this message fro us you took it, not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God at work within you who believe" (1 Thess. 2:13)

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