Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today from the Scriptures in the Old Testament, we heard about the moment when the kingdom of Israel was split into two parts, because of the disobedience of king Solomon, who led the people into sinful ways and pagan worship of idols and false gods. The descendants of David retained the rule over the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, having also some of the members of the other tribes, while the other ten tribes of Israel mostly rebelled and established the northern kingdom of Israel.
Then in the Gospel passage we have just heard today, we heard about the marvels of the Lord Jesus’ healing work among the people, as He healed a man who was deaf and almost mute. He laid his hands upon the man’s ears and tongue and said ‘Ephphata!’ which means ‘Be opened!’ signifying to the people that the man was healed from all of his afflictions and predicaments.
True enough, the man who was once deaf and almost mute, could then use his ears again to listen, and his mouth to speak words, something that the man could not do, probably for many years. Many of us take listening and speaking for granted, as we have always had the ability for many years, ever since we were born. We often do not understand the challenges faced by those who were deaf or mute, as life without the ability to listen to sound and to speak is truly difficult.
The two readings today seem to be unrelated and distant, but in reality, they tie in together well in a most peculiar way. In order to be able to see this link and understand the meaning of the passages today better, let us look deep into the circumstances of history, especially at the time of the division of the kingdom of Israel. At that time, the tribes of Israel except for the tribe of Judah, to which king Solomon belonged, grumbled against the king because of the heavy taxations levied on them.
In addition, king Solomon was well known for his many grand projects and achievements in establishing his powerful empire, but many of these were built upon the foundation of labours which were levied from the tribes of Israel. All of these caused the people to resent the rule of the king even more, and it took just a spark to incite them to rebel against the authority of the king.
Ironically, this was foreseen by the prophet Samuel, who anointed the first kings of Israel. He foresaw that if Israel, who had demanded to have a king at the time, were to have a king over them, then they might ended up being oppressed by the king who ruled tyrannically over them. And all these did happen, just as the Lord warned His people it would come to pass.
The king, Solomon, sinned against God because he failed to listen to God, even though he had perfectly functioning ears. Just as the people who had refused to listen to the prophet’s words, they have healthy ears, and all senses, and yet, they failed to perceive the truth and what they need to do in order to follow the right path and not to fall into error and sin, as what had happened at that time in Israel. The people, led by their kings, fell into sin caused by disobedience against God.
Thus, brothers and sisters in Christ, the healing miracle done by the Lord Jesus in our Gospel passage today, Who cried out ‘Ephphata!’ or ‘Be opened!’ is a reminder for all of us Christians, just as this rite is celebrated also traditionally in the conferring of the Sacrament of Baptism, that as Christians, we should open our ears, and not just our physical ears but also the ears and doors of our hearts and minds to God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray to the Lord, asking Him to heal us all from all of our stubbornness, from all of our refusals to listen to Him and to obey His words. Let us all seek His forgiveness, for all that we have wrongly done to Him, and for all the wicked things we do, having placed our own selfish desires and greed before our obligation to serve and love Him with all of our hearts, as we should have done.
May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us, that we may draw ever closer to Him, and that we may find our way to Him, receiving from Him the promise of eternal life and glory. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.