This past Friday, the readings of the day in the Novus Ordo rite (the ones for the Friday in the Fifth Week in Ordinary time, not the ones for the memorial of St. Scholastica), each point to a different proclamation of “Ephphatha!” or “Be opened!” In the first reading from Genesis, we see the serpent tempting Eve to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, telling her that she and Adam will be like gods and that their eyes will be opened, understanding the difference between good and evil. Once they do it, however, they find out that they’ve been tricked and that their choice comes with consequences, both physical and spiritual. In the Gospel reading from St. Mark, Jesus cures a deaf and mute man by telling him to “Ephphatha!” or “Be opened!” Immediately the man’s ears were opened and he could speak plainly. Afterwards, the people were astounded and said “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
The juxtaposition of the two “Ephphatha!” cries from the devil in Genesis and Jesus in Mark’s Gospel point to two starkly different ways of life leading to two very different places. The devil convinces Adam and Eve to “be opened” to the ways of the world, tending to their pride and becoming gods just like the One Who made them, knowing what He knows. However, as we’ve said, their choice comes with consequences and they realize that in fact it has closed the door to eternal life and the happiness with God that they were made for. In the Gospel reading, we see this consequence carry over to the deaf and mute man. His disabilities may not have been a direct result of sin, but we know that Original Sin is what brought suffering into the world, so it is in some way the result of the Fall. Blindness, deafness, and being mute is also often used in the Gospels to signify a spiritual fault which must be cured. Jesus’s cry of “Ephphatha!” immediately undid the “Ephphatha!” of the devil and made the man’s ears opened to the way of life offered by Jesus and his mouth able to proclaim this salvation that has been offered to Him by this healing.
To which life will we choose to be opened? Society as a whole sadly seems to have chosen to listen to the devil’s cry of “Ephphatha!,” most recently evidenced by the performance of singer Sam Smith at the Grammy’s, in which he appeared to be playing the part of the devil while people around him appeared to be worshipping him. Tragically, people just don’t realize that things like this aren’t fun and games. The devil is a real person and hell is a real place, and people go there to suffer for all eternity. Doing “unholy” things, which was supposedly the title of Smith’s song, can seem fun and freeing at first, but as Adam and Eve found out, it leads to deadly consequences. We must pray for people who buy into the lies of the devil, which really is all of us whenever we choose to sin, and be an example of choosing to instead go to Jesus and listen to His cry of “Ephphatha!,” which truly opens us and leads us on the path to eternal life.