We are so blessed to be celebrating a Baptism today, for it is not a coincidence, but rather God’s providence that we here today’s Gospel the same day we are celebrating this baptism. For in the Gospel today we hear Jesus use a word “Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!”
Why is that so special? Because in just a few moments, as a part of the baptism, I will perform the Ephphatha rite. In which the priest or deacon makes the sign of the cross on the lips and ears of the child being baptized, in a sense imitating today’s gospel passage. But the Ephphatha rite isn’t just for the day we are baptized. It’s a call, Ephphatha, to be opened for our whole lives. But what for? Open to what?
When we think of opening, perhaps we think of opening doors. Of course some of us sometimes have difficulties, you know, like when you keep trying to pull on the door, you keep pulling, it won’t open, and then you finally realize, you’re supposed to push. Then we hope no one noticed because of our embarrassment. Similarly embarrassing, there is the moment when you try to go in the exit door at the supermarket and you can’t because everyone is coming out.
The good news is that in the case of Ephphatha, it is a two-way swinging door that must be opened. But what are the two ways?
The baptismal ritual says that we do this to, “receive his word, and…to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.” To receive and to proclaim. Those are the ways that we are called to live the Ephphatha from our baptism.
First we must be open to receiving his word. This means more than just coming and sitting during Mass with our arms crossed during the Liturgy of the Word on Sundays. We must go beyond that. We must take time to read the Bible throughout the week. In this case it’s not just a, “Be opened! But also an, “Open your Bible!” Take time to read the readings from the daily Mass. You can even sign up for an e-mail service, or download an app so they appear on your phone every morning. What do we all do the first thing we wake up in the morning, myself included? We check our phones. What if we checked our phones and then we opened up ourselves by opening up the app with God’s word for us that day? I know some of you have very pretty altars in your home with the Bible opened up on top. Don’t just open the Bible and leave it there to look pretty, read it! Or at least get another Bible for reading and leave the other one on display.
In receiving the Word, it’s not just a mere reading or memorizing the words, it must go deeper. It’s not about how well or how many stories you can remember and repeat. Rather it’s about asking yourself, how is this word meant to change my life? What is it that I need to change in my life, my home, my family, my workplace that I can learn by receiving the Word of God? In order to receive his word, don’t just read it, wrestle with it a little bit.
Just as we receive his word we must also proclaim that word, to give glory to God. We can offer this praise and glory to God in a few different ways. One way is through our prayer, taking time each day to give him glory for his greatness and goodness to us. Secondly, we give him praise and glory by the way we treat others, through our actions. The way we treat our husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, coworkers and classmates, should be good, and give glory to God, not the opposite.
We can also live out the Ephphatha through proclaiming by inviting others to Mass. It brings me great joy to see our numbers increase the past few weeks, but I want to see the Church completely full! By inviting your family members, friends, and coworkers you are proclaiming his word. That way when they come here to Mass they too can be opened to receiving his word.
As we all celebrate today the growth of our community through this baptism, we are also reminded both through the ritual, and today’s gospel, that we too are called to live the Ephphatha, to be open to receiving and proclaiming his word, for his glory.