BE OPENED! Jesus heals the deaf and mute man, opening his ears to hear and his mouth to speak. Truly a miracle. The bad news is that the man is on the margin of the community because he can't hear or speak. The good news is that Jesus comes along and saves him. Jesus heals the man physically and he heals him socially. Because of his ailments this man is on the margin, outside of the community. This curing makes him whole, restoring him to his community, returning him to full participation. He can communicate with his neighbors and share in their fellowship. He now has a sense of belonging. He does that for us too.
BE OPENED! This gospel scripture becomes a prayer of blessing within the Sacrament of Baptism. In the Rite, this blessing follows the sharing of the Light of Christ to be kept burning brightly by the family, then the placement of a white garment onto the baptized, so they are clothed anew in the life of Christ. The newly baptized are welcomed into the Body of Christ as priest, prophet and king. It is at this point that they are touched on both ears and lips, just like the deaf, mute man in our gospel. Ephphatha, be opened, so that the ears can hear the Word of God and the lips can proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord. A blessing which gives mission to hear the Gospel to grow in faith, then to evangelize the Good News of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
BE OPENED! Baptism is the beginning of our life in Christ where we will be led to the altar to the Eucharist. From the beginning of our Christian life we are opened to the saving grace of God. As we mature in our faith we are further opened by the Sacraments of Reconciliation, which heals our spiritual life; Eucharist, which feeds us; Confirmation, which animates our life in Christ; Matrimony and or Holy Orders, which places us in service of others for the Eucharist; and Anointing of the Sick which also provides healing grace for us. The sacraments invite us and initiate us into the Body of Christ where our faith is nourished, where our relationships with God and our community are healed and restored, and where we are called to serve one another in the name of Jesus Christ.
BE OPENED! For this is Good News for Catholics.
In our Gospel today, there is good news and bad news. In our current time this is also true. There is good news and bad news for Catholics.
The recent bad news began in late June with the story of former Cardinal McCarrick's history of sexual abuse and misconduct with a child and adult seminarians. In mid-August the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report was released identifying more than 300 priests sexually abusing children over a 70-year period, citing coverup in addition to the abuses. About ten days later former Nuncio of the US Church Vigano releases a letter with claims of abuse of power and coverup within the hierarchy of the Church. Last week Cardinal Cupich withdrew the faculties of a priest in Arlington Heights because of an arrest for lewd behavior in Miami. The hits keep on rolling. The public outrage is formidable and understandable. Cardinal Cupich summed it up in his statement "Anger, shock, grief, shame." A few sinful people have taken the spotlight off Christ because of their actions. And their actions leave a trail of victims who have and are suffering deeply as a result. We should pray for them. The good priests are reeling at the revelation of their brethren bringing scandal and shame to the sacramental call to Holy Orders. We should pray for them too. We all suffer because of this. I spent time with a friend in August who was personally affected by the allegations in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. He grew up a block away from the rectory where a named priest was their friend. Some of his friends were abused as children. It was hard for him to ask his siblings if they were abused too. His trust is deeply shaken by the human institution of our church. His faith is not.
George Weigel, a prolific Catholic writer and columnist in Washington, DC, shared a similar sentiment in his Wall Street Journal article last weekend titled A Crisis - But Not of Faith. In it he shared this directly from the Gospel which we heard at the end of August:
"At the end of the sixth chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus has caused a furor among his first followers by declaring himself the "bread of life," on which his friends and disciples must feed. Many found this a "hard saying," and left the itinerant rabbi from Nazareth and "returned to their former way of life." Jesus then turns to his closest companions, the Twelve, and asks, "Do you also want to leave?" Peter answers in two sentences that every outraged or embittered Catholic today should pause and ponder: "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." That conviction is the reason to be a Catholic, the reason to stay a Catholic and the reason to bend every effort to reform the Church as an institution, so that it can be a credible witness to the Lord who offers communion with God and words of eternal life."
I encourage you to Google George Weigel and read this article and some of his weekly columns.
Another rich source for us is Bishop Barron, through his Word on Fire ministry, where he shared this:
"You know, keep in mind everybody, we are not Catholics because of the moral excellence of our leaders. I mean, God help us if we were. We want our leaders--indeed, we expect our leaders--to be morally excellent. But we are not Catholics because of that moral excellence. We're Catholics because of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. We're Catholics because of the Trinitarian love of God. We're Catholics because of the Mystical Body of Christ. We're Catholics because of the sacraments. We're Catholics especially because of the Eucharist. We're Catholics because of the Blessed Mother. We're Catholics because of the saints. Even as leaders in the Church fail morally, the Catholic Church remains the Mystical Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ. And she's worth fighting for."
This is what we tell others who ask us why we are Catholic.
He added: "I'm with my old mentor Cardinal George of happy memory. In the last talk he ever gave to all the priests of Chicago, he said,"Remember, at the beginning of the Church, there were no parishes. There were no schools, hospitals, institutions. There were evangelists,"he reminded us."There were proclaimers of the word."But the point was the Church does not depend ultimately on institutions."
Jesus is our savior. The church is a place full of sinners, therefore our need is first and foremost for a savior. Evil is at play here. It always was, and it still is. This evil needs to be eradicated so that we can focus on the mission of Christ, serving others for God, loving our neighbor as ourselves. We need to keep the faith, live the good news of the Gospel. Fight for the Church. Don't abandon it.
Thank you for being here at Mass today. Thank you for not abandoning our Savior Jesus Christ, despite the crisis which is rearing its ugly face again by some of our human institutional leadership. It is comforting to worship with those who have faith in Jesus. He calls us to be priest, profit and king at baptism which means we are to sacrifice for each other, like Jesus, share the Good News of Jesus, and to be a servant leader, like Jesus. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are faithful because of the gift from God to us of his Son and the Holy Spirit, not because of our deacons, priests, bishops or pope. If they are doing their job correctly, and most are, our faith in Jesus will deepen as they lead us to his Body at the Eucharist and as they proclaim his Word to us.
WE HAVE BEEN OPENED! The bad news is we have sin within the Church. Evil exists. The good news is Jesus is our Savior. As baptized Christians, we can live the life of Christ proudly. We can hear the word of God to deepen our faith. We can and should speak loudly to the bishops about reform and eradication of this heinous sin. And we can and should share the Good News. Because we still have lots of it to share.