February 14, 2020
by Jay Carney
Creighton University's Theology Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saints Cyril, Monk, and Methodius, Bishop
Lectionary: 333

1 Kings 11:29-32; 12:19
Psalms 81:10-11AB, 12-13, 14-15
Mark 7:31-37

Praying Ordinary Time

I found myself struck by the scene depicted in today’s first reading – a future king and a prophet, meeting alone on a rural road. A prophet stripping off his brand-new cloak and TEARING IT INTO 12 PIECES. If only we could dramatize these readings in church! No one would ever lose focus.  

Today’s gospel introduces another bizarre one-on-one encounter on a dusty road: Jesus and the deaf man. Again, the bodily materiality is striking – earwax, tongues, saliva, groaning. We even hear a rare word of Aramaic, Jesus’ mother tongue. If one ever doubted the humanity of Jesus – or the corporeality of the people he heals – this is the reading to clear things up. We are earthen vessels, not made of stone.

Both Jesus and Ahijah stand in the biblical prophetic tradition, using powerful gestures to effect what they announce. The Catholic sacramental tradition is premised on a similar idea – namely that signs can effect what they symbolize, and God’s divine grace is always at work within our material creation. It’s easy to teach this, and every Catholic Mass witnesses to this sacramental principle. But I struggle at times to retain this sacramental imagination in my daily life. Perhaps it’s because I’m expecting “grace building on nature” to be smooth and predictable, when the reality is often much messier – and not according to my expectations.

Ephphatha! May God open our ears to hear, open our eyes to see, and open our mouths to proclaim the strange, earthy goodness of the Lord. 

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