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23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Ages 3-6): Ephphatha

(Adults, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)

Mark 7.31-37

In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus has begun to travel again. Wherever he goes, people come to see him. Everyone wants to be near Jesus. People bring their parents, they bring their children, they bring their friends. Who do the people bring to Jesus in this Sunday's Gospel?

They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

The man the people bring to Jesus cannot hear; he is deaf. He cannot hear the people around him. The man must get confused when he cannot understand what people are saying to him.

Photo by Johnny Cohen on Unsplash

The man cannot speak clearly either. When we are just a baby and learning how to talk, we listen to how the adults around us speak. We try to make our words sound like theirs. This is how we learn. The man who is deaf cannot hear the adults around him. He cannot make his words sound like theirs. If his words are not clear, people cannot understand him. The man must get frustrated when people do not understand what he is saying to them.

When the man is confused and frustrated, what does Jesus do?

Jesus took him aside in private, away from the crowd,

Just Jesus and the man. Jesus looks at the man. The man looks at Jesus. They are together.

Then Jesus,

put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.

Jesus touches the man's ears where sounds should be heard. He touches the man where he gets confused.

Jesus spits water from his tongue onto his finger, and touches the man's tongue. Jesus' tongue speaks so well that people gather from all over just to hear him. The man's tongue cannot speak well at all. Jesus touches the man where he gets frustrated.

Then looking up to heaven, Jesus sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

Why does Jesus look up to heaven? Who is he looking up to?

Jesus speaks one word, "Ephahatha." Efff-ffffaaaa-tha. Ephphatha sounds like breath; it feels like wind passing between our teeth. Jesus tells the man's ears to open--he breathes them open--and the man can hear.

What does the man hear? What is the first sound he hears? He hears the voice of the Good Shepherd--the One who calls his own sheep by name. We wonder what that voice sounds like. It must sound good.

What happens to the man's confusion when he hears Jesus' voice? What happens to his frustration when his tongue works and he can speak clearly? With one word--Ephphatha--all his confusion and all his frustration are gone.

Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

Oh my. Wouldn't it be good to hear Jesus say, "Ephphatha"? We don't like being confused or frustrated. But here is the good news: we do get to hear that word. When we are baptized, the priest or deacon touches our ears and our mouth with his thumb. Just like the man in the Gospel, our ears are opened. Just like the man, who do we hear speaking? Our ears are opened to hear the Word of God. Whenever we are confused, we can listen to the Word of God to explore the mysteries inside.

And like the man in the Gospel our tongue is released, too. We can speak plainly to God and we know that God always understands our words. What will we say? What could we say to Jesus who opens our ears to hear the Word of God?

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