On a 1-Word Summary of Christ's Message and Work
The heart "is what Jesus has come to 'open,' to free"
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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 10, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with crowds gathered at the papal summer residence.
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Dear brothers and sisters!
At the center of today’s Gospel (Mark 7:31-37) there is a little word that is very important. It is a word that – in the most profound sense – “summarizes” the whole message and work of Christ. Mark the Evangelist reports the word in Jesus’ own language, in which Jesus pronounced it, making it more alive for us. The word is “ephphatha,” which means: “open up.” Let us look at the context in which it is spoken. Jesus is passing through the region called “Decapolis” along the coast of Tyre and Sidon and Galilee; so it is a non-Jewish area. They bring him a man who is deaf and mute so that he will heal him – evidently Jesus' fame had reached this region. Jesus leads him away from the others, he touches his ears and his tongue and then, looking up to heaven, with a deep breath he says: “Ephphatha,” which means precisely: “open up.” And he immediately begins to hear and to speak plainly (cf. Mark 7:35). This is the historical, literal meaning of this word: because of Jesus’ intervention this deaf and mute man “opens up.” Before this he was closed, isolated, it was very difficult for him to communicate; the healing was for him an “opening” to others and to the world, an opening that, starting from the organs of hearing and speaking, involves his whole person and life: finally he was able to communicate and thus relate himself in a new way.
But we all know that man’s closure, his isolation, is not only caused by his sense organs. There is an interior closure that regards the deep center of the person, that which the Bible calls the “heart.” This is what Jesus has come to “open,” to free, to make us capable of fully living in relation to God and others. This is why I said that this little word, “ephphatha” – “open up" -- summarizes the whole mission of Christ. He became man so that man, who had become interiorly deaf and mute because of sin, might be able to listen to God’s voice, the voice of Love that speaks to his heart, and in this way learn to speak the language of love, to communicate with God and others. For this reason the word and the gesture of “ephphatha” is inserted into the Rite of Baptism as one of the signs that explains Baptism’s significance: the priest, touching the mouth and the ears of the newly baptized person says: “Ephphatha,” praying that the person might soon hear the word of God and profess the faith. Through Baptism the human person begins, so to speak, to “breathe” in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit whom Jesus called upon from the Father with that deep breath, to heal the deaf and mute man.
Let us turn now in prayer to Mary Most Holy, whose birth we celebrated yesterday. Because of her singular relationship with the Incarnate Word, Mary is completely “open” to the love of the Lord, her heart is constantly listening to his Word. May her maternal intercession obtain for us the ability every day to experience, in faith, the miracle of “ephphatha,” to live in communion with God and our brothers.
[Following the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In English he said:]
I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus prayer, especially those from the Rome campus of the University of Mary in the United States. In today’s Gospel Jesus cures a deaf man with a speech impediment. Let us pray that our spiritual infirmities may be cured, so that our ears may be open to listen attentively to the Lord’s life-giving teachings, and our speech may plainly profess our faith in him. May God bless you!
[Concluding in Italian he said:]
I wish everyone a good Sunday, a good week. Thank you! Have a good Sunday.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]