Sunday, 23 September 2018

Childlike, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mk 9:30-37
Today I’d like us to reflect on what it is that the Lord Jesus meant by placing children before us as role models.
There are, in fact, multiple occasions when the Lord placed children before us:
The Lord “blessed” the little children that came to Him (Mk 10:16);
He said we must “change” and become like little children (Mt 18:3) saying we must “humble [ourselves] like little children”(ibid);
But it is probably here in this passage that the REASON to be like a child is clearest:
the question of greatness.

Greatness came a question in the Gospel text because the 12 apostles were arguing about which of them was the greatest.
Was it John -the Beloved, or Andrew -who brought the loaves and fishes to Jesus, or Philip who was trusted to calculate that it would take 100 denarii to feed the 5000, or James -who was related to Jesus, or Judas -who was in charge of the money?
We can imagine how the conversation might have gone.

It seems to me that there are two ways that we can think of ourselves as great, and children show us the opposite in each case.

The first is we can think of ourselves as great in terms of telling other people what to do.
Children, though they might frequently complain about it, children are used to being told what to do:
tidy your room, do your homework, eat your greens.
This, the Lord is saying, is an attitude WE need to have:
we need to expect others to tell us what to do, we need to be OK with being, as He put it, “last of all and SERVANT of all”(Mk 9:35)
-the servant is one who is told what to do.
In contrast, the “great’ man thinks he can tell everyone else what to do.

A second way we can think of ourselves as great:
having everything I need,
being self-sufficient and strong,
not needing anyone’s help.
Children, in contrast, know they are in need:
I want ice cream, I want that toy car, and want to be taken to the beach
-children know they are in need,
and they look to adults to fulfil their needs.
We, the Lord, the Lord is saying, we need something of this same attitude:
We need the humility to place ourselves before God and call on His help.

I need the Lord:
I need His strength, because often my weakness becomes apparent to me.
I need His guidance, because often my ignorance and stupidity are brutally put before me.
I need His forgiveness, for my sins, my many sins.

A child knows that he is in need;
A child knows he’s not in charge;
A child knows he is little.
We need to know the same.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Ephphatha, 23rd Sun Ord Time, Yr B

Mk 7:31-37; Isa 35:1-7
Today I want to explain why the passage we just heard “sums up Christ’s entire mission”, as Pope Benedict put in a 2012 Angelus address.

We just heard an obscure Aramaic word, “ephphatha” (Mk 7:34). Earlier this year you might recall I spoke about how there are less than a handful of words in the Gospels that the Early Church considered so precious that it kept not a Greek translation of the Lord’s words, but the actual words used by the Lord Jesus, in the original language He spoke in, namely, Aramaic
The Early Church treasured and kept this word, “ephphatha”, because she sensed that this word, “be opened”(Mk 7:34), applied not just to this individual deaf and dumb man, but actually applies to all of us.
In fact, we can see it as summing up the whole of Christ’s mission on earth.

One of the most basic human experiences concerns the difficulty of relating to God.
We all have an inner desire for something more, something transcendent and beyond, a desire for God -this desire gets smothered in many people, but it remains our most basic human experience:
We were created for God, and we yearn for Him.
The problem, however, is this:
We also experience the difficulty in communicating with Him.
Sometimes I feel unable to come to Him. Maybe I feel unworthy, or too feeble -something seems wrong at my end.
Sometimes, however, it can seem that something is CLOSED at God’s end. Scripturally, this is described in the book of Genesis in the account of the Fall: the Original Sin has left humanity sinful, stained, and shut out from heaven.
I am closed to God; and He is closed to me.
YET I need Him, and I yearn for Him.

But who can open earth to heaven and heaven to earth?
Only one who is both of heaven and of earth.
Only Jesus Christ who is both God and man.
Only the One of whom they said, as we heard at the end of that text, “He has done ALL things well”
Have YOU ever met someone who “did ALL things well”?

Thus the mission of Jesus Christ.
The Lord came among us to open us to God; and to open God to us.
My sins mean that the gates of heaven have been closed to me.
And so Jesus comes and dies for my sins, dies for me.
The symbolism in this regard concerns how, before healing the deaf and blind man, the Lord Jesus “looked up to heaven”(Mk 7: 34).
He looked up to heaven and said, “be opened”.
But, even though His death has satisfied justice,
even though the gates of heaven are opened to me,
even so, there is something IN ME that still closes me from God.
My laziness won’t look to Him,
My selfishness won’t give myself to Him,
My sensual desires close me on myself and my pleasures.
What I NEED is someone BEYOND me to OPEN me.

And the Lord Jesus said to the man who was deaf to hearing Him and blind to seeing Him,
“ ‘ephphatha’, that is, ‘be opened”.
And He says the same to you and to me.
Let us each, today, ask ourselves what is closing us to God.
Let us each, today, recognise that this can only be opened by a power, by someONE beyond me,
Let us each, today, bring that to the Lord, and hear Him say, “ ‘ephphatha’, ‘be opened”.