Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Memorial of Saint Scholastica, Virgin

February 10, 2023
Prabodhana Theologate and Major Seminary for the Pallottine Fathers
Mysore, India

Genesis 2:3, 3:12-13
Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7
Mark 7:31-37

Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven.

In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus open the deaf man’s ears so that he can listen. The Gospel tells us plainly that the deaf man began immediately to speak plainly. To speak plainly is to speak clearly, honestly, without impediment. The man’s impediment to speak clearly is removed by the loving touch of Christ. The malady removed is not simply a physical defect; it is also a spiritual malady of sin and its effects. Its effects include deceit and estrangement from God, from other people, from himself, ending with isolation behind the walls of ignorance, error, and dishonesty. Jesus removes this malady by forgiveness and redeems its effects, he does not merely cover it up.

Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven.

We cannot make ourselves hear God rightly. We cannot make ourselves speak of God truly and accurately. Without the prior and divine intervention of grace — the grace of our Baptism — we will not hear God rightly or clearly. Without the prior and divine intervention of grace — the grace of our Baptism — we will only speak of God inaccurately and dishonestly, hearing and speaking of Him as our adversary and rival.

These two facts about our wounded capacity to listen and to speak are the result of Adam and Eve sinning and rejecting God’s plan by closing their ears to God but opening them to the Serpent — a liar. The proof of God’s love is that He decided to undo the destruction that our first parents made and to which we contributed through a preference for our will over God’s way, a preference for the lies of the serpent, a preference for our excuses over the truth of God’s word, and a preference for death over God’s gift of life. The proof of God’s love is the gift of His Son, Jesus, who undoes our sin by the shedding of His Blood as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Bishop Michael Olson is seen with the seminarians and community of the Theologate and Major Seminary of the Pallottine Province at Prabodhana, Mysore, India on February 10, 2023. (Photo by Father Thomas Jones)

Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven.

Jesus opens the deaf man’s ears, closed by Adam’s and Eve’s refusal to listen to God, by touching him and speaking the words “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be Open.” The man now speaks plainly and truthfully because he has been freed from the snare of the serpent’s lie that claims for us to be like God requires us to live without God.

The heart of the polarization that plagues our nations, our world, and the Church is not our refusal to be open to new ideas, it’s our refusal to be open to God. The vocation of a Christian, a missionary, and of a priest is to display this openness to the grace that we cannot make ourselves hear rightly nor can we make ourselves speak clearly the truth of God and the truth of man — Jesus Christ.

Jesus, through the ministry of the priest, opened our ears at Baptism, when he said, “Ephphatha,” “Be opened.” Do we keep our ears open to God? Do we speak of God truthfully? Do we refuse the lies of the devil and listen clearly to Jesus and speak plainly and honestly in His grace?

Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven.

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