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Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time—Be opened; be baptised

Today’s gospel story is set in a pagan land and this geographic location, placed deliberately by the Evangelist is to show that it has a definite theological significance.
The sick to be healed is a “stuttering deaf” as in the original text. For Isaiah, the “stuttering deaf” was the people of Israel. However, the patient who is presented to Jesus is a pagan. It is the condition of every person who has not yet met Christ or one who deliberately closes his ears and does not allow the word of salvation to penetrate his heart.
The word of Christ opens the ears and loosens the tongue even in our families, in the Christian communities, in social settings where often more than communicating, we attack each other because we are unable to listen to the reasons and needs of the other.
In this episode the groaning of Jesus looking to the sky, touching the ears, using spittle are gestures of the healers of his time. But, Jesus gives a new meaning to these gestures. Many details bear a symbolic meaning and even explicit references to the rite of baptism. 
To begin with, the deaf and dumb does not present himself to Jesus alone, but is accompanied by some people. To come to Christ and hear from him the word that heals, one must be accompanied by someone, who has already known Jesus, a godfather or mother.
Before performing the miracle, “Jesus looks up at the sky and groans…” This is an act of prayer. Only after having been “inspired” by the Spirit, we are able to communicate this life-giving power to those who are in the condition of death.
The act of “putting the fingers in the ears” is a rite of baptism in some Churches. The minister prays touching the ear of the one to be baptised with the thumb. The Christian is not only one who can hear the gospel, but also is one, who is qualified to preach the message he has heard.
To understand the gesture of “touching his tongue with spittle”, it should be noted that, in the popular conception, the saliva was considered a kind of focussed breath, a materialisation of breath. Touching with his saliva, the tongue of the deaf-mute, Jesus therefore intends to communicate to him his breath, his Spirit. This is what happens in baptism.
 Effatà is an Aramaic word, the language spoken by Jesus and it means “Be opened!” It is an invitation to open the doors of the heart and let Christ in and his Gospel in his life.
The last part of the passage reports, in detail, the outcome of that healing intervention of Jesus and ends with a “final chorus.” The crowd sings its joy because the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled: God has made “the deaf hear” and “the mute speak” (Isaiah 35:5-6). This grateful cry is the profession of faith of the community. 
● Father Fernando Armellini SCJ 
Claretian Publications
Translated by Father John Ladesma SDB
Abridged by Father Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF