Monthly Archives: September, 2015

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

1st Reading – Genesis 2: 18-24:

When you read Genesis, you will notice there are actually 2 creation stories side by side.  Theologians have determined that this is because there are 2 sources, one being Yahwist (J) and the other Priestly (P).  This creation story is by Yahwist, which is an earlier and more “earthy” source.  These creation stories in Genesis are not intended to be read as scientific documents about the beginning of things.  They are etiological stories written to help us ponder and understand basic truths about humans and creation.  How does this story speak to you about humanity and creation?

The most important point of this story is that both man and woman come from God.  There is a pun in this account that is lost in the translation.  An earlier Sumerian account tells of the goddess Ninti, whose name means “Lady of the rib” or “Lady of life”.  This play of the words rib and life is lost when translated from Sumerian into Hebrew, but traces of the meaning have been retained.  The woman is built from the rib (2:22) and she is later named Eve, Mother of the Living (3:20).  You recall earlier in this scripture passage, God forms man (adam) from dust (adamah).  But it is from this dust that all life is created:  plants, animals and birds.  It seems to signify a life force.   Made from the rib of the man, the woman is no more inferior to him than the man is inferior to the dust of the ground from which he comes.  God made all of it as worthy and good (“Scripture from Scratch”, 10/97).

2nd Reading – Hebrews 2: 9-11:

From Preaching Resources, Oct. 2006:

The author (and even the audience) is unknown for this ‘letter.’ It is not even really a letter, and there is much discussion over exactly what type of writing it is – a sermon? an exhortation? a treatise? But it contains a message that continues to be of great importance and truth. It tells of a God who is not at a distance from his creation, but “a God who has been speaking, arguing, pleading, wooing, commanding and generally spinning words across the lines between heaven and earth since the beginning of time.” These messages from God are like a great musical overture that reached its crescendo in Jesus Christ. Jesus who is God’s ultimate Word became one of us – even to the point of death. Here in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection we can hear the salvation that God intended for sinners fully and hopefully with great thanksgiving.

Hebrews is part of the early Church’s effort to understand Christ as both human and divine.  Preceding this reading, Psalms 8 is quoted that angels are ‘rulers over the new world to come’ (Workbook for Lectors, 249).  But Christ made himself lower than the angels for a little while…so he could taste death like everyone does.  Christ wants to be one with us.  As Paul said in his letter to the Philippians about Christ:  “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, “ (2:6-7).  In Hebrews and Philippians, the intent was for the hearers of the message to place their trust in Christ.  Does it make you want to place more trust in Him?

The Gospel — Mark (10: 2-16):

How has God’s grace (God’s love, God’s very life) been present for you in a child – a spouse, a parent, a friend?  Maybe this is more about our ‘hard-hearts’ than about divorce. What do you think?  In the church there is room for everyone. As church we still need to proclaim the ideal of holiness of marriage, because it comes from Christ and his wisdom; it builds up the human family. But Christ calls all of us into a love relationship with God and with others. Due to human weakness we all fall short in one way or another. This only means we need Christ more; we need to alleviate the pain of broken relationships whenever and wherever we can, (Footprints on the Mountain, Roland Foley, 649).  We must be like children, open, vulnerable and trusting.

Jesus is being asked his opinion on a very hotly debated issue of his day:  the grounds for divorce. The words in Deuteronomy (24; 1-40) say that a man can divorce a woman for ‘some indecency’ which, of course, could mean many things. Some conservatives of Jesus’ day said a man could only divorce a woman for adultery.  Others said that divorce was all right if a woman was a poor cook, if she spoke to strangers, if she gossiped about her husband’s family, or simply if he found another woman more attractive.  Women, for the most part, had no right to divorce, at all, in Jesus’ time and culture.  Women in the Roman/Greek culture, however, could divorce, that is why Mark’s gospel refers to this in vs. 12.

Divorce at this time was also more than just a separation of two partners; it was a separation of families. God had chosen one’s parents it was believed. Then, the parents chose the marriage partners for their sons and daughters. In that sense then, God chose – God, through the chosen parents, had joined them together. Thus, “what God had joined together, let no one separate.”

Divorce then brought great shame not only to the woman, but also to her family – in particular to the males of that family. This shame would often be a cause for feuding.  Bloodshed was a common result from such a ‘separation’.  (J. Pilch, Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle B; Preaching Resources, Oct. 2006)

A word of warning and compassion:  This passage can be a cause of great pain and resentment for those who have suffered because of a union that was far from the ideal. “Without detracting anything from the sacredness of the gift of marriage, those who have suffered as a result of their unions should be shown respect, understanding and encouragement. Support for them in their struggle should be the order of the day in a community that is meant to be a home to all.” Just as physical nourishment is needed for one to grow strong, so spiritual nourishment is also needed and should not be withheld. This is the nourishment of friendship and the sacrament of Christ’s presence.  Everyone needs God’s strength and his grace of forgiveness daily.  This is an important for all, whether married or unmarried.      (Preaching Resources, Oct. 2006)

I Saw the Pope!

Father Bob’s homily from last weekend…

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26th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

If you followed the news very closely this week you might have noticed that Pope Francis visited the United States.  And as so many of you know, I was blessed to attend his mass at Madison Square Garden, so when it came time to decide what to preach on this week, I thought about a couple of things.  I noted how many people asked me what the mass was like compared to how many asked me how I intended to break down the Gospel.  Then I realized it was a choice between preaching about Pope Francis or gouging out our eyes if we sin.  It was a pretty easy choice.  Besides I and Zoe, Elyssa and Denise Murphy McGraw were there to represent all of you.  It is my honor to report back.

The first highlight for me was his speech to Congress…

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Pope-apalooza! By: Kris Rooney

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Wow!  On every channel, Facebook, Twitter, conversation and now this parish blog…all everybody is talking about is Pope Francis.  He is making his way through all of these audiences with the same message:  let’s be open, have dialogue, be kind, love one another.  What seems to strike people the most is HOW he is saying it.  He means it.   He talks to Congress about helping the poor, and then he goes and eats with them.  He praises women religious, and he makes an impromptu stop to visit them.  He says to put the marginalized first, and then he prays for them.  It is simple and clear that love is his mission, and ours.

What moments have stood out the most for you?  For me, I got choked up when he went out on the speaker’s balcony after speaking to Congress and addressed the crowd.  He looked at the children and families and called them the most important ones.  He blessed them, and then asked for prayers for himself.  Even if you’re not the praying kind, he said to send good wishes his way.  He was speaking as an equal.  There was no judging in his voice.  He only felt a love for those in front of him.  And today, I teared up again listening to him at Ground Zero.  His heart was breaking with everyone’s in the room.  He asked to pray in silence among a people where multiple religions and ethnicities were represented.  You could hear a pin drop.   Then children came out to sing, “Let There Be Peace on Earth”.   It made me really want to be that peace somehow in my life.  This pope listens and feels what we feel.  He inspires this empathy in those around him.  He inspires me to be a better listener too, and to always be present and affirming to those I encounter.

If you get a chance, try to take a few minutes to think about the coverage you have seen and what it means to YOU and your life.  How is love your mission?  Is there something the pope has said that hits a cord in you?  Is there a subtle way that he approaches life that you would like to emulate?  With all the Pope-apalooza, a moment of reflection could bring a lot of meaning into your own world, and with it, peace.

And by the way, on October 8th 6:30pm, we will meet at St. Kateri Tekakwitha’s Parish Center on Rosa Road to discuss “Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home”, the pope’s Encyclical.  This will be a wonderful opportunity to dig deeper into his philosophy on caring for each other and our earth.  It may help you in your own reflection too.  It can be found here :  Laudato Si or call the parish office for a printed copy ($1.50).

Feel free to share your own ruminations here or with me…I’d love to hear them.

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

1st Reading – Numbers 11: 25-29

The name Numbers comes from the description of the census in chapter one of this book. The laws contained in the Book of Numbers are directed to a people on a journey through the promised land. The material contained here extends over many centuries and comes from various ancient sources. The narrative part comes from an earlier time, while the laws are probably from a much later time in Israel’s history. A part of Numbers parallels the story of Exodus, especially all the grumbling and rebelliousness. It stresses the Lord’s patience with his people as his ‘punishments’ are always balanced with God’s listening and God’s response to their needs. The purpose of any punishment is only to change their hearts and to encourage them to listen again to God’s ways of justice and care (M Birmingham, W & W Workbook for Year B, 660)

Although this is an ‘ancient story,’ how does it speak to you today?  This story is evangelization at its best!  But isn’t it too often that those close to the seat of power, relishing their privileged position, play gatekeeper to ensure that others who are not authorized don’t gain access to the coveted power?  (Workbook for Lectors…, 245)  It is so easy to think small, to continue doing things the same because “it’s how we’ve always done it”.  God wants us to be open to see things in a new way!  “God is trying to help us to see ourselves the way he sees us already, “ (Coutinho, How Big is Your God?, 65).  Is there anything that is holding you back from allowing God’s spirit to be bestowed on you?

2nd Reading – James 5: 1-6

This reading should wake us all up this Sunday morning!  This is the tenth exhortation in James’ letter. In vivid, powerful language it calls for all to be people of social justice. Like the prophets of the Old Testament, James is reminding us in no uncertain terms that God hears the cries of the poor and the abused. As people of God we need to listen and respond also. Poverty, of course, is not good in itself, but it can foster a reliance on God. Here is what St. Basil (329-379), church father, said regarding our attitude to another’s need: “If everyone kept only what is necessary for ordinary needs and left the surplus to the poor, wealth and poverty would be abolished . . . the bread you store belongs to the hungry. The cloak kept in your closet belongs to those who lack clothing. The money you keep hidden away belongs to the needy. Thus you oppress as many people as you are in a position to help.”  (M Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook for Year B, 661-662)

What might be most challenging is how the passage ends:  he offers you no resistance.  Who is he?  We could look at it as the oppressed not resisting.  What if he were God?  God did give us free will and allows us to make our choices, good or bad.    Challenging words . . . how do you grapple with all of this?

The Gospel — Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

Hyperbole is a common human way to communicate – especially when something is very important to us – or we want to draw attention to something: “She asked me a million questions!”  “It scared the life right out of me!” “I waited in line forever!”

Jesus like so many teachers of his day also used this kind of language to get everyone’s attention.  Here with the talk of cutting off body parts, Jesus is trying to emphasize how important it is to live God’s way of love and justice in order to be fully healthy and alive – AND how terrible evil is: it is as tragic as losing a hand or foot or eye!   (Living Liturgy, Cycle B. 217)

Gehenna with its unquenchable fire was a real place in Jesus’ day.  It was the Valley of Ben-Hinnon just south of Jerusalem.  There Ahaz (a former king) had sinned in burning his sons as a sacrifice to the pagan god, Molech (2 Chronicles 28:3) Later, Ahaz’s grandson, Manasseh also sacrificed his sons by fire (2 Chronicles 33:6).  The sight became infamous for sin and depravity being called the Slaughter Valley (see Jeremiah 7:31; 19:5-6; 39:35). King Josiah reformed things and put an end to such awful practices and declared this valley to be unclean (2 Kings 23:10).  Later, the place was used as a garbage dump where Jerusalem’s refuse was burned and rotted: “where the worm dies not and the fire is never extinguished.” (Celebration, September 28, 2003).

Jesus is inclusive, not exclusive.  “Jesus cares only that his ministry of love, mercy, and compassion continue.  He welcomes anyone who offers these works of mercy and justice.  Attitudes of “holier than thou” do not serve God’s people. Christians are to support all efforts to extend compassion and love to others.  Karl Rahner coined the term, “anonymous Christian” to describe anyone who lived Jesus’ message of love and justice even if they did not ‘call’ themselves Christians (or Catholic)(Birmingham, Word and Worship, 663).   We must allow God’s Spirit in and not be resistant to what God might be working on in our lives.

To Think as God does and not as human beings do

Father Bob’s homily last Sunday…

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24th week in Ordinary Time B

In the second reading, we hear St. James proclaim faith without works is dead.   It was Martin Luther’s least favorite epistle because it challenged his primary premise – faith alone can save you.  Perhaps, James was remembering this scene from the Gospel where the faith of Peter was not enough.

After surveying what others say about him, Jesus directly asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  Peter answers immediately, “You are the Christ.”  Then Jesus explains what that entails, how the Son of Man must be rejected, handed over to the elders, priests and the scribes and be killed on a cross.  Newly emboldened by his statement of faith, Peter decides it is one of those over the shoulder moments we have with friends.  You know, when you think your friend has a crazy thought, you take them aside, put…

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25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

1st Reading:  Wisdom 2:12, 17-20

The Book of Wisdom is known only in Greek and may be the last book of the Old Testament to be written.  The main interest of the author is to reassure the Jewish community living in Egypt that keeping their faith is worthwhile despite the hardships in a pagan land (Aren’t we still?).  Prophets Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah draw from the insights in this book, so it deserves healthy attention  (Reading the Old Testament, Boadt, p. 488-489).

Gandhi was inspired by the teachings of Jesus, in particular the emphasis on love for everyone, even one’s enemies, and the need to strive for justice. He also took from Hinduism the importance of action in one’s life, without concern for success; the Hindu text Bhagavad-Gita says, “On action alone be thy interest, / Never on its fruits / Abiding in discipline perform actions, / Abandoning attachment / Being indifferent to success or failure” (Wolpert, India 71).

For Gandhi, ahimsa was the expression of the deepest love for all humans, including one’s opponents; this non-violence therefore included not only a lack of physical harm to them, but also a lack of hatred or ill-will towards them. Gandhi rejected the traditional dichotomy between one’s own side and the “enemy;” he believed in the need to convince opponents of their injustice, not to punish them, and in this way one could win their friendship and one’s own freedom. If need be, one might need to suffer or die in order that they may be converted to love (http://www.socialchangenow.ca/mypages/gandhi.htm).

In South Africa, the words “I am” also mean “you are.” I am because you are! This concept, known as ubuntu, emerged in the 19th century and developed as a world view for South Africans when apartheid was legislated in the early 1950s. It literally stands for human-ness or humanity toward others.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu said ubuntu means “I am human because I belong, I participate, I share.” Nelson Mandela wrote “Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?” Ubuntu then is a philosophy of interdependence (from recent blog of https://richardsvosko.wordpress.com/).  How does this fit in setting the “wicked” as being someone else?  Are we all to learn and be blessed by one another?

2nd reading:  James 3:16-4:3

James questions what we still question today…why is there war?  Why can we hold on to our own self interests?  He begs his listeners to be seekers of peace…to be pure, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits.  Where do you find peace in your life?  How does this help you in times of conflict?

From Seeking Peace, Johann Christoph Arnold:

“You will always find reasons to grumble.  If you want to find peace, you must be willing to give them up.  I beg you:  stop concentrating on your desire to be loved.  It is the opposite of Christianity.”

“…the inside must become like the outside (and the other way around)…a consistent battle in favor of all that is life-bringing and good…”

“Joy and peace are found in loving and nowhere else.” – John Stott

Gospel:  Mark 9:30-37

Not only is Jesus predicting his Passion and death a second time (remember last week’s Gospel?), but he is teaching his disciples the meaning of servant.  We are all servants of Christ and servants in his household.  (Birmingham, W&W, 653)  How do we become servants of Christ?  It’s all about the love!  J  We will be unable to endure the cross Christ asks of us if we do not grow in the love he gives us.  When we follow the way of the Lord and the will of God in love, we live in the perfection of justice we seek in our prayer.  Only then will we understand and live the life of a true servant of Christ  (654).

Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges developed the Lead Like Jesus movement.  Like Sigmund Freud, ego has a lot to do with it.  We have a tendency to Edge God Out by putting ourselves in the center (like the disciples in this Gospel story).   We let pride and fear get in the way.  We need to have a tendency for Exalting God Only, where we have a spirit of humility and confidence in God’s purpose.  It is a lifelong struggle (Phelps, The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus, 58-63).

Did you notice that Jesus and the disciples are in constant motion?  They are constantly on the way to somewhere, on a journey.  This is like our lives now!  We are challenged to be present with Jesus in our constant motion too.

The word for servant (talya) is interchangeable with child. The word receives is the same word for welcomes in 6:11.  It means taking care of the weaker members of the community – those who are in most need of being served.  Children were at the bottom of society’s social ladder.  Childhood was a time of great danger.  30% of live births ended in death.  Disease and lack of hygiene caused 60% of children to die by the age of 16  (Birmingham, W&W, 656).  Jesus turns everything upside down for us.  We are supposed to be more like children (or servants) to receive Him.  How do we do this?  Again, it is all about the love…

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

1st Reading – Isaiah 50: 5-9a

This passage is also the appointed reading for Palm Sunday.  This is the third servant song from Second Isaiah.  The people are still in the throes of captivity yet reject the prophet’s message of hope.  The exile continues and the people are getting tired of this prophet saying there will be a positive outcome (Birmingham, W&W, 642).  Yet he must be heard!  Isaiah is adamant that his voice must be heard because God is by his side.  What faith.  How does this speak to you?  When have you felt this boldness to pursue what is right and important to you?

Christians, of course, saw in these songs the picture of Jesus, our Christ.

In fact they were used to help them pray about and understand Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection. They also contained an inherent challenge for Jesus’ disciples – and for us. (Celebration, Sept. 2006)  How do they challenge you?

2nd Reading – James 2: 14-18

This letter is getting down to the brass tacks of our faith.  If we have faith, what are we going to do about it?  How does this reading inspire and/or challenge you?

There was quite the debate in the early church community about faith and works.  Paul often spoke as faith being God’s gift to us, and so many thought Paul was in opposition to James’ letter.  But both can work together.  “To be Christian means to act upon the Word as our response in love,” (Birmingham, W&W, 643).  Who inspires you as someone who balances their faith and works?  

The Gospel – Mark 8: 27-35

“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus questions.  Jesus in his humanity is revealed in this question.  Jesus first asks what others think of him, but then he gets to what he really cares about…what do his friends think of him?  Revelation literally means an “unveiling” or “disclosure” of something previously hidden.  Jesus is God revealed:

  1. Revelation is God’s own self-disclosure.
  2. Revelation points to particular events and particular people through whom God has communicated in decisive ways with humanity.
  3. Revelation calls for our personal response and appropriation.  True knowledge of God is a practical rather than a merely theoretical knowledge.
  4. Revelation of God is always a disturbing, even shocking event.  Look at Jesus!  He ate with sinners-this was shocking at the time.
  5. Revelation transforms the imagination…it stretches out understanding.

Taken from Faith Seeking Understanding by D. Migliore, p. 24  Who is Jesus to you?  How does He reveal himself to you in these different ways?

Notice how Jesus speaks openly, but Peter immediately turns defensive.  Jesus does not shy away from confrontation.  He walks right into it.  Jesus is clear about what the future brings for him, and it will mean suffering.  But through human weakness, the strength of God abides  (Birmingham, W&W, p. 642, 645).  Jesus challenges us to find strength in our weakness…to be open when we are hurting and sad.  Can you do that?  Can you live a life openly like Jesus did?

Jesus:  divine AND human?  We question this because we are trying to understand who he is.  Our love for him makes us WANT to know him.  In the end, there will always be some mystery in the knowing.  Like with all of us, we may never truly understand and know each other completely.  St. Augustine said, “If you have understood, then what you have understood is not God.”  But does that stop us from loving anyway?

The Problem with my Golf game if the Problem why I Sin

Father Bob’s last Sunday homily…

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22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time B

As Fr. Tim and I were coming home from vacation, slowly grappling with the idea that we both had to preach this weekend, I read aloud the Gospel to Fr. Tim who said the list of what defiles given by Jesus always intrigued him.  I get that. They don’t seem to go together.  There are some things on the list that are tangible, something that any one of us would look at as sin – unchastity, theft, murder, adultery and blasphemy.  But then some of the other qualities on the list are intangible such as evil thoughts, greed, malice, arrogance and folly.  And this caused me to think about my golf game.  Just let me take my six iron out to explain.

Somehow, I got worse every time I played this vacation.  What defiles my game, my original swing sin, is the same…

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23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle B

1st Reading – Isaiah 35: 4-7a

This section of the Book of Isaiah was added to the earlier part of the book. It probably is prompted by the Babylonian exile which brought great fear and despair to the people whose country now lay in ruins and many of the people were back in slavery. The writer of Second Isaiah wants to inject hope and fearlessness born of faith: a trust in the God who “will come with vindication.” It speaks for all of us who believe in a God who is greater than all evil and whose grace is more powerful than any affliction.  (Celebration, Sept. 2006)

Brother David Steindl-Rast in gratefulness, the heart of prayer talks about the difference between hope and hopes.  Hopes are for a particular thing, while hope is a virtue, a way of being.  Hope does not depend on hopes, because hopes don’t always work out.  Hopes can even get in the way of hope.  It makes a world of difference where we put our weight – on those hopes out there ahead of us, or on the hope that is within.  A person of hope will have a whole array of lively hopes.  But those hopes do not tell us much.  The showdown comes when all the hopes get shattered.  Then, a person of hopes will get shattered with them.  A person of hope, however, will be growing a new crop of hopes as soon as the storm is over.  Do you want to be a person of hopes or hope?

2nd Reading – James 2: 1-5

James is trying to move us away from our common tendency to favoritism. As Peter states in Acts (10:35) God shows no partiality and Paul says in Galatians (3:28) that we are all one in Christ Jesus – so James is encouraging the same idea. At this time, while by far most of the Christians were poor and just about all were powerless politically, they were a diverse social group. Jews and Gentiles, women and men, slave and free – and the rich and poor – all came together – and they were to come together in love. This was a challenge. It still is.

From Understanding God’s Word, September 10, 2006:

When God chooses the poor, it is not to set up a new, inverted pecking order. It is meant to eliminate the pecking order altogether. God gives privilege to the marginalized to abolish privilege. The biblically poor are not just those who are economically poor; it is anyone who lacks the power to protect their interests against misfortune (Who can we think of today?).  James’ advice gets set in Catholic Social Justice teaching with the phrase: ‘God’s preferential option for the poor’. Showing the poor this preferential option does not mean making them more dependent on others. It is about empowering them to stand on their own two feet, in love and dignity. This is what James means by calling the poor ‘heirs’ of the kingdom.

Notice the word LISTEN.  We must truly hear one another and be in open dialogue for change to happen and have a world with no partiality.  Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, says, “Deep listening is the kind of listening that can relieve the suffering of the other person.” 

The Gospel – Mark 7: 31-37

Our world is filled with words – and we have become very efficient at hearing, but not listening. We almost must ‘tune-out’ in order to survive! Yet, the Word of God that comes to us in Jesus is a word we need to hear and to take to heart.  What do you hear in this gospel?  What do you need to listen to in order to more deeply hear God’s voice?

Yet, the purpose of God’s word is not, first of all, to challenge us towards charity, social justice, morality, or even to worship of something higher . . . Christ came as God’s incarnate Word, to bring us life, light, and love. Loving parents call forth their infant with their smiles, their voice, their touch, their attentive reassurance into a world of self-expression and conscious love. Hopefully, we all have been called out of the darkness and chaos of infancy by loving voices that cajoled, caressed, reassured, and kept luring us beyond ourselves. Helen Keller, much like the poor man in the gospel today, had been trapped in blindness and silence until her teacher, Annie Sullivan, broke open the world for her. Annie’s infinite patience, touch, and breathing-presence slowly, but eventually, revealed the world to Helen. Christ as Word is like that for all of us. It is meant to be that voice of the loving mother/father/teacher who calls us out of fear, darkness, chaos and frustration to freedom, thought, self-expression and an awareness of love. But it is not easy to be led out of darkness. We need to trust in the voice of love, the gentle, beckoning, patient voice of our God-in-Christ. (Ron Rolheiser, “In Exile,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

Mark gives further meaning to this story by where he places it in the overall gospel narrative. Throughout Mark’s gospel the disciples have been ‘deaf’ to Jesus’ word – lacking ‘insight’ and understanding. They and many others have been unable to make any confession of faith about him, Eventually, however, at Caesarea Philippi (after the feeding of 4,000, the blindness and deafness of the Pharisees, and the healing of another blind man at Bethsaida) their ears are opened, their tongues are released, and they speak clearly about Jesus as the Messiah through Peter, the spokesman.  But even here their faith is limited and blind when Jesus talks of suffering and rejection.  Jesus will have to walk with them further, talking, cajoling, correcting, and healing . . . Only on the cross will Jesus and God’s love be fully revealed. (Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

We may be a bit shocked by Jesus’ spitting in today’s gospel. We have become such a ‘germ-conscious’ culture. But in the Middle Eastern culture, spitting was a common precaution against evil. Traditional healers routinely used this strategy to ward off evil and thus heal. Hands were also the customary way that any therapeutic power was transmitted. (Even today we pay a lot to have ‘massage therapists’ work their wonders.) Also, the word, ephphatha, is an original Aramaic word. This was the language that Jesus would have used. It was believed that the actual word itself had power. So it was remembered and recorded.  (John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

How can you be opened to the Lord?