Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 9, 2018 – Year B
Readings: Is 35:4-7A / Ps 146 / Jas 2:1-5 / Mk 7:31-37
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
For those of you who follow us on Facebook, you already know where I was on Friday evening: in Richmond. It was the Mass at which two of the men from our parish were invited into candidacy to the permanent diaconate. This was the first step of what is almost a five-year journey from the start of discernment through four years of education, with ordination as the goal. The two men are Mark DeLaHunt and Tony Rivera.
These gatherings are like a homecoming for me. Because we have a large diocese, I don’t get to see the men I studied with, and this is an opportunity to catch up with them. We get to talk about what we are doing — both good and bad — and it is a reminder of the broader meaning of being a deacon.
When I read this week’s gospel, I thought of one of my favorite responsibilities as a Deacon: Baptism. I love kids, and I love when I am honored to baptize them into the Church of Jesus Christ. Now you may think it odd that this gospel reminds me of Baptism, but I have been to more Baptisms than most of you. I am very familiar with the rite, and there is so much there. Although most people focus on the moment when water is poured onto the child, there is also so much incredible theology in this rite.
Let me share with you some of the richness in the rite so that you can see what I mean. You have probably heard me mention that the basics of officiating at a Rite is to follow the instructions; you do the Red and say the Black (in the book of the rite). Starting with the Red I would do the following: “The celebrant touches the ears and mouth of the child with his thumb and says: ‘The Lord Jesus made the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak. May He soon touch your ears to hear His word and your mouth to proclaim His faith to the praise and glory of God the Father. Amen.’” Now do you see the connection with the gospel? In fact, that section of the Baptismal rite is called the Ephphatha (Aramaic for “Be opened”), straight out of this gospel.
The second thought I had with this gospel is “Where am I in it?” One technique for reading scriptures is to put yourself into the story, especially if there is an unnamed person in the story. Put yourself in the place of the unnamed person. In fact, some Bible scholars believe this was an intentional literary device to get the reader to do this. I find it very helpful to place myself into the story.
As you see from the rite, what happened to the man in the gospel, happens in Baptism. We live in a fallen world. As Saint Augustine says: “Our hearts long for You, O God, until they rest in Thee.” While we are made for God, we need help, we need the grace that comes from the sacraments to help us along the journey to Him.
Part of that grace is understanding, a gift of the Holy Spirit. I am reminded of the two men on the road to Emmaus. They didn’t understand what had happened in Jerusalem or the Scriptures until Jesus opened them up for them. That is what is happening in the gospel and in the Baptismal rite.
There are some other unnamed people in the gospel, too. Remember there are unnamed people who bring the man to Jesus and beg Him to lay His hands on him. In the gospel, after the man’s ears were opened and his tongue was loosed, he actually joined this group. As it says: “They” – and we must assume that this includes the man – “refused to stay quiet.”
This is what happens in Baptism too. When we were baptized, we changed groups. We became part of the Body of Christ and as such, we have an obligation. Sometimes we think that it is the clergy’s job to evangelize and bring people to Christ, but it is everyone’s job. Through Baptism each was made a son or daughter of God. Each was given the grace to be a light in a dark world; to bring people to Christ just like these people in the gospel did.
It is especially important today when we live in a time where the Catholic Church is not looked upon favorably. We can’t rely on the clergy to fix things; we all need to be a part of the solution. We all need to strive for people to see the face of Jesus in us on a day-to-day basis. Think about it and you will see that individuals can reach so many more people than the clergy can.
We can all open our ears to those who are calling out for help. If we all strive to see the face of Christ in those we meet and do our best to show the face of Christ to those we meet, we can all begin to heal what is broken and to begin to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven.