Summary: Jesus’s Ephphata prayer is the opening up, the removing of the “impediment” of spiritual deafness for us. It’s an Aramaic phrase which literally means “be released.”


Several years ago in January the Washington Post conducted an experiment you may have heard about. The experiment involved Joshua Bell, one of the world’s greatest violinists who performed for almost all the world’s major orchestras. Joshua Bell was commissioned to play his $4,000,000 Stradivarius violin in a subway station in Washington, D.C. Joshua was only available in January. So he dressed like a street musician looking for tips and sat in the subway station playing for 45 minutes. The Washington Post had a hidden camera to video the entire event. Out of the 1097 people who passed by him, seven stopped to listen! He received $32.17 in tips not counting the $20 he received from one person who recognized him.

It was done as a test of beauty. Joshua Bell decided to begin with “Chaconne” from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor. Bell calls it “not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history. It’s a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect. Plus, it was written for a solo violin.”

The conclusion of the study verified that he'd be largely ignored (though not THIS largely ignored). His performance was an experiment in context, perception and priorities -- as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, on a cold day, would beauty transcend? [from the author of the study]

Many readers of the story started to cry. As one person said, “I cried because I find it scary and depressing to think of how obliviously most people go through daily life, even smart and otherwise attentive people. Who knows what beautiful things I've missed by just hurrying along lost in my thoughts? Another person said, “It's almost a panicky feeling, that if a performance by Joshua Bell on his Strad gets lost in the shuffle, what about about all the smaller beautiful things that happen every day and could be making people happier, if only they paid attention?”

In our Gospel account, Jesus’ looking up to heaven is a gesture of prayer, expressing total reliance on the Father. He groaned. Romans 8:26 calls it “inexpressible groanings” of the Spirit as he intercedes for us.

Jesus’s Ephphata prayer is the opening up, the removing of the “impediment” of spiritual deafness for us. It’s an Aramaic phrase which literally means “be released.”

1."Be opened" Jesus prays. Why? Am I really listening to God's voice calling to me? Listening is a voluntary involvement of the whole person, divesting oneself in order to be open to the reality of God. Mediating on the Scriptures, esp. the Psalms is where we allow God to speak without us interrupting Him with our problems, worries, and requests.

2). Be opened! means opened up out of isolation.

Our Second Reading speaks of the impartiality of the Lord versus our partiality based on outward appearances, what St. James calls “Distinctions among yourselves;” divided within yourselves; an internal dividedness as in trying to live by two measures at once and are divided in consciousness.

To be opened is to recognize all forms of suffering and hardship, whether they be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or social, but it especially recognizes the wounds of those who have come to believe that they are unloved or unlovable.

We are too “little” to heal our neighbors’ inner woundedness, but, like Jesus looking up to heaven, we can gently direct others to God, by ‘pointing’ to Him through living in His merciful love and doing small acts of love as tiny conduits of God’s infinite, merciful love and facilitators of the giving of a gift that is not our own, but which belongs to God.

3). Be opened! refers to freedom from patterns of sin—

Pope Benedict said because humanity is inwardly deaf and mute as a result of sin, God became man in the person of Christ so that we "become able to hear the voice of God, the voice of love speaking to our heart, and learn to speak in the language of love."

From baptismal imagery in Milan and Rome dating from very ancient times, the Effeta rite came immediately BEFORE the renunciation of the devil which suggests it had an exoristic significance.

To unblock us, so we hear the Good News of repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ. After all faith comes by hearing, Romans 10:17 tells us.

Ephphatha us, Lord! Open us to all You want us to do and to be. Amen.

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