LECTIO DIVINA: XXXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

ephphatha (1)

Translated by Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR

Mk 7:31-37.

A. Invoking the Holy Spirit.

We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.

          Come, Holy Spirit. By whom every devout soul who believes in Christ is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God. (s. 128, 40) Amen.

B. Lectio.

With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.

          31 Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon in the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. 32 And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; 34 then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!”(that is, “Be opened!”). 35 And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. 36 He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. 37 They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”+

C. Meditatio.

Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Mark.

          St. Augustine realizes that the cure of the deaf that Jesus performs has a symbolic and spiritual meaning. It deals with the deafness of the soul, with opening the heart of the person to enable it to hear the word of God and be able to be converted. Whoever is far from God and does not hear his word, even though the body may be alive, his soul is dead. On the contrary, whoever  believes in Christ and has been cured of  interior deafness, can listen to the word of Christ and live forever. St/ Augustine comments thus: Since the soul is better than the body, so also the health of the soul is better than that of the body. Now the blind eyes of the flesh do not open by a miracle of God, but surely the heart opens the eyes by its word. It does not now raise up a mortal cadaver, rather he raises up the soul that lay dead in a living body. Now the deaf ears of the body are not opened, but how many are those who had closed the ears of the heart that nevertheless are opened when the word of God penetrates them, in such a way that they who did not believe now believe, and they now live holy lives who lived profligately, and now obey those who did not obey! We also say: ‘Such person has come to the faith,’ and we are surprised when we hear that the person referred to we had known as hard—hearted. Why are you then surprised that now he believes, harms no one, serves God, but because you notice that he whom you knew was blind now sees; that he who you knew was dead now lives; and he whom you knew was deaf now hears? Therefore, see another class of dead persons, those to whom the Lord referred on saying that certain person delayed in following him, because he wanted to bury his father; he says: let the dead bury its dead. Certainly, those who bury the dead are not physically dead, because. if that were so, they could not bury dead bodies. Still he calls them dead; where are they dead except interiorly, in the soul? Similarly, in the field of the visible, it also frequently happens that in a standing house in good state lies a dead owner of the same, so too in a healthy body many have the soul dead in its interior. These also the Apostle awakens with these words: Rise up, you who sleep and come out from among the dead and Christ will illumine you. He who gives sight to the blind is the same as the one who raises the dead. It is his voice, using the Apostle, that shouts to the dead: Rise up, you sleeper. The blind shall be illumined by the light, once he is risen. How many were not deaf that the Lord had before his eyes when he said: Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear!  For, who was in his presence without physical ear? What other ears then did he seek if not those of the interior man? (s. 88,31).

On the other hand, St. Augustine himself acknowledged that he was deaf to the voice of Christ and that he needed that the Savior himself come to him and break open his deafness, open his eyes so that he could come close to God and believe. The well known text of St. Augustine is the following: “Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you! Behold, you were inside me and I was outside, and outside I went searching for you; and deformed as I was, I jumped upon the beauty of your creatures. You were with me, but I was  not with you. They kept me distant from you those realities that would not exist if they were not in you. You called and shouted and shattered my deafness; you shone and you glistened, and chased away my blindness; you exhaled your fragrance and I inhaled, and now I yearn for you; I tasted you, and I feel hunger and thirst; you touched me and I am burnt in your peace (conf. 10, 38).

D. Oratio.

With the text, let us now pray from the depth of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.

a. “But how many are those who closed the ears of their heart, who, nevertheless, open up upon the entry of God’s word, in such a way that those who did not believe now believe?” (s. 88, 3)

  • How do you find the ears of your heart?
  • What impedes you to listen to the word of God in your life?

b. “Jesus brought him apart from the people, placed his fingers in his ears, with saliva touched his tongue, raised his eye to heaven, moaned and said: ”Ephphata,” i.e., “Be opened.” (Mk 7:33-35)

  • We live in the midst of noise and the crowd, in your interior do you feel the need for silence, for solitude, and for a personal encounter with Christ?
  • For you, what is the meaning of Christ’s command: “Be opened”?

E. Contemplatio.

I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again you need not follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.

a. Contemplate Christ taking the deaf by the hand and leading him away from the crowd. Contemplate how he puts his fingers into the ears of the deaf and see the great confidence with which Jesus raises his eyes to heaven

          and say: “Be opened”. Contemplate, admire and love.

b. Contemplate how Christ come to you and after putting his hand on you, he says: “Be opened”. Open your heart to his word, to the experience of God, to his love. Contemplate how Christ himself breaks the chains and opens the doors that impede you to open to God and to the brothers. Verify your feelings and sentiments.

F. Communicatio.

Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially as regards opening the ears of your heart and your heart itself to God and to his word. The following points can help you share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on the text.

  • What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
  • How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
  • What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
  • What has been my dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?

Final prayer of St. Augustine.

Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty. with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that you deign to hear our petitions according to your goodwill, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions, that you increase our faith, govern our mind and give us spiritual thoughts and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).

          “It is life that calls; it is life to which one opens. One asks, one seeks,  one calls with the heart; it is the heart that is opened” (s. 91, 3).

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Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR

Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR

Priest/Religious/Bible Professor of the Order of Augustinian Recollects in the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno.