THE EPHPHATHA PROJECT: OVERCOMING THE CROWD LIMITATIONSHOMILY FOR THE 23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Our mobile phones give us an instant connection to our family, friends, and associates, especially voice calls. But when it comes to placing or receiving a call, one would need a noiseless ambient to hear and be heard. With this description in mind, it would be a great task to entertain a call in a noisy crowd.

In the Gospel Reading (Mark 7:31-37), we see our Lord Jesus attending to a deaf and mute at the request of some people amid a noisy crowd. It would have been like opening the eye of the blind in a dark room. So, we see Jesus doing the needful, which is taking the man away from the crowd. That singular act leaves us with so many lessons.

The Crowd Effect

It would be important for us to take a closer look at the crowd phenomenon generally and in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. By definition, a crowd is a large collection of people in a particular place. Often there are no personal spaces between individuals, and that makes a crowd disorganized and uncontrollable.

The ministry of Jesus has series of appearances of the crowd often referred to as a multitude. The crowd often followed him (Mark 3:7), he taught the crowd many things (Mark 4:1ff), and he healed many people in the crowd (Matthew 15:30-31).

However, the crowd could also be an entity of limitation and distraction to progress. The woman with the issue of blood had to struggle through the crowd before she could touch the fringe of Jesus’ cloak. (Luke 8:42b-48).

Recall that the blind Bartimaeus was hushed by the crowd while trying to get the attention of Jesus for healing (Mark 10:46-52). Zacchaeus could not see Jesus because of the crowd, so he ran ahead to a sycamore tree where Jesus eventually met him (Luke 19:1-6).

Breaking the Limitation of the Crowd

From the Gospel narrative, we see that Jesus had to take the deaf and mute man away from the crowd before engaging in the process of healing that involved putting his finger into his ears and spitting and touching his tongue. Notice that Jesus could still have performed the miracle in the crowd, but it would be of little benefit to the man because he would be struggling to hear and to be heard.

From a more reflective angle, the crowd could be anything or anyone that challenges our access to the transforming power of the Lord in our lives. You can also be a crowd unto yourself through the choices and decisions you make for yourself. Like we established, the crowd stands for distraction and limitation.

Taking a walk from the crowd, Jesus said to the deaf and mute “ephphatha,” a Greek word that means “be opened.” Indeed, the crowd would not have allowed the opening to happen because it would be closing in every inch on the way.

Imagine if the deaf and mute man refused to follow Jesus to get away from the crowd; he would have gone home the same! Is that not the case with us? Unfortunately, we often get so attached to some “crowds” that we do not recognize the presence of the Lord and his healing mission in our lives.

Of course, God’s hands are not too short to save and his ears not too dull to hear, but the crowds in our lives separate us from God’s protecting hands. The prophet Isaiah (35:4-7a) reminds us of God’s promised healing mission in our lives. God does not want us to be frightened but to be strong as He comes to restore hearing to the deaf and the speech to the mute.

Moving Forward: The Ephphatha Project!   

Upon a closer introspection, there is more to that command of our Lord Jesus Christ that says Ephphatha. God is inviting us to be open to accept the invitation to leave the noisy crowd around us that is stopping us from hearing and speaking the word of God. We live in a world filled with so many distracting crowds, especially the one we have in our hands called mobile phones. There would be the need for us sometimes to drop that crowd to hear the Lord.

Furthermore, Ephphatha is an invitation for us to open the door of our hearts to the Lord, who knocks insistently, waiting for our response (Rev. 3:20). Ephphatha is an invitation to step out of our comfort zone and be open to a new way of living. Ephphatha is a challenge to give the Lord access to our ears and mouth like the deaf and mute.  

As we continue our Christian faith journey, may we continue to renew our resolve to answer the Lord who is still calling us to disconnect from the limitations of the crowd and to align ourselves to the saving remedies He has prepared for us.

God bless you, and a beautiful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

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