Down, Dirty, and Divine!

February 11, 2022
Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel gives us one my favorite portrayals of Jesus. It’s what I think of as “down in the dirt with us” Jesus. Let me give you some background on the image.

Me and Petey 😉 1955, looking a lot cleaner and official than we really were!

When I was a kid in North Philly, my buddy’s dog was hit by a car. We were playing baseball in a cinder lot (that’s where the railroad dumped its ashes in the old days when trains ran on coal). We were about a half block away when we heard the screeching. We turned and watched the guilty car speed off without a moment’s hesitation.

Petey ran screaming toward his dog, the rest of us cinder-dusty kids streaming behind him. I can still see Petey lie down beside that whimpering mutt who had been tossed into a muddy gully along Philip Street. He cradled the bruised head and whispered to the frightened eyes. Then Petey quietly said, “Get my Dad”, as he stroked Lightening’s heaving back.


As I remember that moment today, Petey reflects the image of the Divine Healer who – muddied and bloodied — has taken a place beside all of us as we suffer. He is unafraid of our mud and cinders. He is touched by our mumblings and tears.

In today’s Gospel, there is stunning humanness. The suffering man doesn’t just ask for a miracle. He asks for a hand to be laid on him, for a touch, for a connection he can feel. And Jesus hears his deep human need.

People brought to Jesus a deaf man who had a speech impediment
who begged him to lay his hand on him.

Mark 7:32
Be Opened – Thomas Davidson (1872)

Some miracles are accomplished by a fleshless, electric word shot through the air. But not this one.

With this lonely, isolated man, feel Jesus caress your head, perhaps finger the ears that have heard so much criticism and frustration. Feel Jesus touch your tongue, twisted sometimes in its attempts to speak your meaning into the world. Receive the surprising gift of Divine spittle that intends to insure, “I am part of you now. You will never be alone again.”

Hear Christ’s groan as he prays for you in sounds that plead, “Get my Dad. ABBA, Father.”

He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
“Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)

Mark 7:32-34

Hear the definite pronouncement of your liberation
from anything that tongue-ties, heart-ties,
soul-ties your life:
“Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)

Poetry: I believe in all that has never been spoken – Rainer Maria Rilke
~ from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clearwithout my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

Music: Ephphatha – Fill Me – Carrie Allwine

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray in the power of the Gospel:

Ephphatha!  Be opened:

All minds to God’s omnipresence

All hearts to God’s infinite love

All spirits to God’s tender proposals

All eyes to God’s eternal vision 

All ears to God’s cry in the poor

All mouths to speak God’s Word in justice

All plans to the rhythm of God’s freedom

All dreams to God’s dream for all.

Be opened – especially in me today.
🙏 Amen!


Poetry: Be Opened! – Malcolm Guite

Be opened. Oh if only we might be!
Speak to a heart that’s closed in on itself:
‘Be opened and the truth will set you free’,
Speak to a world imprisoned in its wealth:
 
'Be opened! Learn to learn from poverty’,
 Speak to a church that closes and excludes,
And makes rejection its own litany:
‘Be opened, opened to the multitudes
 
For whom I died but whom you have dismissed
 Be opened, opened, opened,’ how you sigh
And still we do not hear you. We have missed
Both cry and crisis, we make no reply.
 
Take us aside, for we are deaf and dumb
Spit on us Lord and touch each tongue-tied tongue.

The Muddied Healer

Memorial of Saints Cyril, monk, and Methodius, bishop

February 14, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel gives us one my favorite portrayals of Jesus. It’s what I think of as “down in the dirt with us” Jesus. Let me give you some background on the image.

When I was a kid in North Philly, my buddy’s dog was hit by a car. We were playing baseball in a cinder lot about a half block away. We saw it happen and watched the injuring car speed off.

Petey ran screaming toward his dog, the rest of us streaming behind him. I can still see Petey lie down beside that whimpering mutt who had been tossed into a muddy gully along Philip Street. He cradled the bruised head and whispered to the frightened eyes. Then Petey quietly said, “Get my Dad”, as he stroked Lightening’s heaving back.

In that moment in my memory, Petey became an image of the Divine Healer who – muddied and bloodied — has taken a place beside all of us as we suffer.

In today’s Gospel, there is stunning humanness. The suffering man doesn’t just ask for a miracle. He asks for a hand to be laid on him, for a touch, for a connection he can feel. And Jesus hears his deep human need.

Some miracles are accomplished by a fleshless, electric word shot through the air. But not this one.

tongue
Be Opened – Thomas Davidson (1872)

With this lonely, isolated man, feel Jesus caress your head, finger the ears that have heard so much criticism and frustration. Feel Jesus touch your tongue, so twisted in its attempts to speak your meaning into the world. Receive the surprising gift of Divine spittle that intends to insure, “I am part of you now. You will never be alone again.”

Hear Christ’s groan as he prays for you in sounds that plead, “Get my Dad. ABBA, Father.”

Ephphatha

Hear the definite pronouncement of your liberation from anything that tongue-ties, heart-ties, soul-ties your life:

“Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)

Music:  Lord, You Put a Tongue in My Mouth – Divine Hymns

Be Opened!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Click here for readings.

Today, in Mercy, our readings are about being opened by the grace and power of God.

ephphatha

In the Genesis passage, Eve and Adam eat fruit from the tree of knowledge. Their eyes are opened to good and evil.

In our reading from Mark, Jesus opens the ears of a deaf man, allowing him both to hear and to speak clearly.

In the first passage, Adam and Eve’s new “openness” brings a burden. Their innocence now fractured, they must forever exercise their free will to choose good over evil.

In the second passage, the deaf man’s burdens are lifted. He now has no obstacle to hearing and proclaiming God’s mercy.

Like Adam and Eve, we bear the burden of knowledge in a disturbing and sinful world. Every choice challenges us to be and do good in a culture of human degradation.

But like the man who was cured, we have been transformed by Christ’s touch. We see, not just with the discernment of good and evil, but with God’s eyes – with the power to see past death to life.

This power is expressed in our lives by:

  • our faith in a world filled with uncertainty
  • our hope in a world trapped in despair
  • our love in a world blinded by selfishness and greed

Every morning, God wakes us and says, “Ephphatha – be a sign of my gracious openness in your world because I am that Openness for you.”

Today, in our prayer, let us find what is closed in us. We may have judged and shut out someone. We may have given up on a good and necessary practice. We may have withdrawn from a generous responsibility. We may have capitulated to a life-sapping addiction. Inside us somewhere, we may have curled up into  “No”!

God calls us to be a “Yes” to the abundance of life and grace God offers us. We are called to open, to be “uncurled”. This poem by e.e.cummings has helped me on occasion with such uncurling.

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds

Music: Open My Eyes, Lord