The 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 5 September 2021
Lectionary Readings: Isa. 35:4-7; Ps. 146:7, 8-9, 9-10; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37
Theme: Miracle to Unmute
In the Gospel, Jesus said to the deaf man: “Ephphatha!” (“Be opened.”), and performed another miracle as at that moment the ears of the deaf man were opened, his tongue was loosened and he spoke correctly. (Mark 7:31).
Today, we hear a version of this ‘Ephphtha’ command when we attend Zoom webinars or meetings. The host will tell us to mute ourselves during the proceedings as part of the house rules so that only the host or other specified speakers may be heard clearly by all. Then, the host will tell us to unmute as the audience, especially during the Q and A or sharing time to be able to speak to all participants. Thus, we unmute to be able to ask questions, for clarity, share an insight or make a point.
Unlike us today, the deaf man in the Gospel does not have the option to mute or unmute himself. It was Jesus’ miracle that made him enjoy being able to hear and speak clearly. As in the other miracles of Jesus, the healed enjoys other benefits as well: being able to join or renew family, and rekindle social and community ties. Among others, the daughter of Jarius and the Syrophoenician woman are returned to their families, the cured paralytic returns home, the Gerasene demoniac has a new missionary role and Peter’s mother does housework again.
Intertextually, we see echoes of another return: in the hopes of the returning exiles in Isa 35:5-6 that “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped” (also in Isa 42:19). The restoration of hearing is part of the new day of salvation.
We can also see echoes to God’s words to Moses in Exod 4:11: “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” This allusion adds the Christological dimension: Jesus, like the LORD, has power over hearing and speech. Another allusion is Jesus’ reply to John the Baptist in Luke 7:22 and Matt 11:5:the kingdom comes with continuing acts of compassion for the blind, the lame, lepers, deaf, the dead, and the poor. Beyond being a miracle healer, Jesus can be seen as an agent of divine fulfillment.
Like a Zoom host, Jesus instructed those who had witnessed the miracle he performed to mute themselves. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But they were amazed and said: “He has done all things well; he even has made the deaf to hear and given a voice to the voiceless.” They could not be prevented from witnessing and proclaiming what he had done.
In the same way, as today’s believers in Christ, we do not have the option to mute or unmute ourselves. We are compelled to share in the mission to proclaim the Gospel and share Christ’s message of hope especially in this time of the pandemic.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Do you know voiceless people? How can you help them unmute themselves? 2. In this time of the pandemic, do you know of someone who has been gravely affected (the sick, the bereaved, the unemployed)? How can you help and bring hope to them?
Bibliography: Culpepper, Mark (Georgia, 2007); Eve, The Jewish Context of Jesus’ Miracles (London, 2002); Harrington, Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Mark (Minnesota, 2002)
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Minerva Generalao, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumna July 2014