Aloha Friday Message – September 4, 2015 – Astonishing Faith

1536AFC090415 – Astonishing Faith

Read it online here, please.

Mark 7:37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Aloha kakahiaka, ʻŌmea. Today we continue with the Gospel of Mark and one very astonishing story about healing. This episode appears only in the Gospel of Mark. It’s a story that portrays Jesus as very human – touching, speaking, spitting, praying; and this passage contains a wonderful Aramaic word that is used in preparing persons to receive the Sacraments of Initiation. That word is Ἐφφαθά (ephphatha) {ef-fath-ah’} אתפתח or אפתח which is the Aramaic word for “be opened.” It is the word of command that Jesus speaks to heal a man who is deaf and has a speech impediment. The word used for that in Hebrew it is אּלֵּם (illem) {il-lame’}, and in Greek it is μογιλάλον (mogilalon) {mog-il-al’-on} which is the same word in the Septuagint for this Sunday’s passage from Isaiah.

The above passage in Mark is linked directly to this Sunday’s Old Testament reading (Isaiah 35:4-7). In Isaiah 35:6, we read, ” then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
Can you take a moment here to imagine what it was like for this man? His friends brought him to Jesus (a good example we should follow), and asked him to “lay hands on him,” to heal him. Surprisingly, Jesus led him away from the crowd and then made some very unique gestures. Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears. He worked up a bit of spittle, and touched the man’s tongue. I can’t imagine how that happened! Did Jesus remove a finger from an ear to catch a drop of saliva and then touch that finger to the man’s tongue? Did Jesus touch his own tongue to the tongue of the man? All we have is that there was touch, spittle, and an Aramaic word of command , And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.” (See Mark 35:7) At this, the crowd – and the Apostles in particular – recognized the prophecy of Isaiah that the mute shall sing the praises of God. The passage in Mark does not describe the man singing, but I am sure he “made a joyful noise unto the Lord,” and that the man himself heard it and so did the crowd. He had something astonishing to celebrate: He had been freed from his prison of speechlessness. Recall how this also is a promise found frequently in the Old Testament as in Psalm 146:7b The Lord sets the prisoners free; God had brought together Jesus and this man to confirm that prophecy. All who saw it were amazed at Jesus’ power. Perhaps they should have been – could have been, would have been – even more amazed if they took into consideration why Jesus performed this (and – I believe) all other miracles: They were acts of compassion and mercy. They were the acts God has always asked the just – the righteous – to perform.

God always asks us to be merciful! Why does he do this? Because God himself is merciful. He always directs us to care for the orphan, the widow, the stranger, the disadvantaged, the poor, the outcast, the prisoner, the ill, the hungry and thirsty, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to visit (and care for) the sick. These things God expects of all of us so that everyone can see we are compassionate as he is compassionate. We are to “seek first the Kingdom of God.” It is in the Kingdom of God that we perform the works of God’s commands – to love God beyond everything else and to love one another as (in the same way) Christ has loved us (See John 13:34-35 or 1323AFC060713 – The Other Side of the Mountain here.) I think God reminds us about this so often throughout Scripture because we forget – even ignore – it so quickly. What happens when we fail to love God beyond everything else and to love one another as (in the same way) Christ has loved us? Well, to sum it up in a single word, we become unrighteous. Here are some other words that describe that state of being: Wicked, corrupt, deplorable, illicit, immoral, senseless, selfish, vicious, wrong, crooked, sinful, villainous, out of line, evil, culpable, or ungodly.

That last one is especially important because we are all created “in the image and likeness of God.” (See Genesis 1:26) when our lives are ungodly, we are living contrary to the purpose of our creation. I believe that, contrary to the way we usually think, we will not be judged for our sins, but for our lack of righteousness. In Acts 17:30-31 30 “While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness (ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ) by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” This phrase, ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ¸ means “in the condition of.” We spend so much time being unrighteous. How can this be? How do we live out this unrighteousness? We do that when we fail to see how our own selfishness oppresses others. Lately, this has been in the news quite a lot, and much of that news is generated by Francis I.

When we place personal material gain over the needs and rights of others, we are unrighteous – as when we euthanize adults, or abort infants, or destroy a regional ecology, we are unrighteous. When we seek personal gratification through exploitation of children, or abuse those with whom we live, we are unrighteous. When we advocate and commit and urge others to do violence against others and do that in the name of God, we are unrighteous. When we fail to be merciful in physical or spiritual ways, we are being unrighteous. Whenever we fail to act with compassion and love, we are guilty of ignoring the needs of others; even the least among us should be a recipient of our righteous care. You know that I keep coming back to Micah 6:8 … to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. It sounds so simple. It is easily memorized. It is well to aspire to this. And it is so easy to fall far short of the mark. In the same way that we are astonished by what Jesus does, so also are we astonished at what it takes to be like him. Astonishment is not faith. Faith is using that astonishing grace to become a disciple. That’s what we’re supposed to do – become disciples.

Being a disciple is an astounding lifestyle. Only in him and through him can there be righteousness because outside of him there is no one righteous, no not one. (See Psalm 143:2 and Romans 3:7-10) Our prayer, then should be that we will come before the Lord to have our ears opened and our tongues set free so that we can proclaim the Gospel unhindered, sing joyfully before the Lord, and to witness to the saving Power of God by living and working in God’s righteousness. Sometimes we have to start over on that every day; sometimes it’s every hour. We have Christ’s assurance that he will be with us every hour that we need him even unto the end of the world. We have only to turn and see him standing here, to hear him speaking here, and to leap for joy to have the Precious Presence here. Let us go to him for he calls to us, 28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Go to him. Be taken aside to be healed. Come back to the World, astounded beyond measure, and proclaim his wondrous deeds. In this there is righteousness.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved!

Did you use all of the links? Did you find the one with music?

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages) Visit at http://biblehub.com

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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