Roman Catholic/Methodist/URC - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Anglican - Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 17
Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 or Isaiah 35:4-7a * Psalm 125 or Psalm 146 * James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17 * Mark 7:24-37
Jesus today heals the death mute in Mark's account. He commands the mans ears and mouth "Be opened" or in Arameic " Ephphatha". In the Catholic rite of Baptism there is an option ( little used in England and Wales ) called the Ephphatha rite, when the Priest or Deacon prays for the babies ears and mouth to be opened to hear and speak. What we need to remember is that all of us ( no matter how good our hearing ) need to sometimes think about how "open" our ears are to God. When I was teaching there was a favourite hymn with the children which began "Open your ears O Christians People, Open your ears and hear Good News", the kids loved it because it had an Israeli melody, and got faster and faster with each verse. However, theres a message for all of us in today's Gospel and that hymn. We've all got to listen to the Good News and that means listen not just hear ! It is Good News first of all, so we've got to show it's Good News by the way we act etc. Too many people think that Christians are miserable because they are weighed down by a long list of "Don'ts" Secondly we have really got to listen when we hear Scripture read, too often for all of us, it literally goes in one ear and out the other, and is forgotten the moment we cross the Church door. Really concentrating on the Word is hard in a service, with distractions going on in the building and in our heads, but we've got to try and do it.
There's another type of listening which as Christians we must try and do as often as we can, and that listening to the voice of God in our lives. As the prophet found out God is not always in the earthquake, the wind and the fire but sometimes in the still small voice of calm. Hearing that above the noise and hubbub of daily life is hard and requires us to listen with fully open ears and hearts. Its so good to hear people saying in FACT that they can hear the voice of God calling them to do something, we all need to make sure that we listen and find out what it is he wants us to do.