On October 11, 2012, the Catholic Church will begin the Year of Faith. Throughout this upcoming year, Pope Benedict XVI exhorts us to rediscover our journey of faith which began with the Sacrament of Baptism.
In his homily of the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Fr. Marco Testa encourages us to be open to the Word of God in this upcoming Year. He urges us to make an effort to “deepen our faith, love and friendship with Jesus our Lord.”
Fr. Testa references Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei, For the Indiction of the Year of Faith, in his homily. Click here for the link.
Here’s Fr. Testa’s homily:
Twenty-third Sunday Per Annum (B) September 9, 2012.
“‘Ephphatha,’ that is ‘Be opened.’” And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly” (Mk. 6:51).
At the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism for Children this miracle is ritually recalled in what is known as the rite of Ephphatha. The celebrant touches the mouth and the ears of the child with his thumb and says, “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the mute speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father. Amen.” It is a reminder to us that the Word of God is received for a reason; that it may be proclaimed. The form that this proclamation takes varies; but the purpose of this proclamation is a progressive evangelization of our lives so that we may fully live what we proclaim. In all our efforts to proclaim the Word of God whether in the liturgical assembly, in our own prayer with Sacred Scripture or in what is known as lectio divina, sacred reading, the desired goal is that the word of Christ may dwell in us (Col. 3:16) and that we may be “doers of the word and not just hearers” (Jas. 1:22).
Our Lord said to those who believed in Him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:31-32). We are here today because we believe in Him and because we wish to continue in His word; that is, we seek to enter evermore deeply into the meaning of the Word of God so that in the words of the Psalmist it may be “a lamp for [our] steps and a light for [our] path.” (Ps. 119:105). It may be said that our instruction in the Gospel is always ongoing and in this sense, we are truly always disciples. We are men and women, young and old constantly seeking to understand the word of the Lord which abides for ever (cf. 1 Pet. 1:25). This Word is the foundation of our faith.
In just over a month, on October 11th, we will begin the observance of the Year of Faith. As the Church observes the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, our Holy Father is inviting all Catholics “to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and the renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ” (Porta Fidei, 2). In the Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, the Holy Father explains: “The ‘door of faith’ (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace. To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime. It begins with baptism (cf. Rom 6:4), through which we can address God as Father, and it ends with the passage through death to eternal life” (Porta Fidei, 1). This journey of faith that began with our Baptism requires of each one of us one thing alone; regardless of our stage in life and our state of life: a heart that allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace. St. Paul says that “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). All instruction, including instruction in the faith presupposes attentiveness on the part of the disciple, that is to say, the student who seeks quite simply to learn Christ so that we may “have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). In the coming weeks our Parish Bulletin will include a number of announcements outlining our efforts to observe this Year of Faith; so that all of us may deepen our individual commitment to Christ our Lord and grow also as a parish family of faith. Our Holy Father further explains that “what the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life without end” (15).
Surely our presence here this morning indicates that we wish to be among those who provide this credible witness of faith and so as we do every Sunday and hopefully in our prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture, we dispose our mind and heart to be enlightened by the word of the Lord. Parents, you know well the frustration that is felt when your children do not listen to you. All of us are frustrated and ultimately disappointed when we feel or discover that we are not being heard. What can be said of our disposition when the Word of God is proclaimed and explained at Mass? And lest you think that I am rebuking you, what dispositions of heart and mind do I bring to the Word of God as I proclaim it and seek to lead you into its meaning for your life? All of us must seek to approach the Word of God with reverence; that is, with a sobriety of spirit that recognises that Word of God is not like any other word. St. Paul exhorts us: “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16). Recently, in my study I came across an ancient text from St. Caeserius of Arles (d. 542), who said that “One who listens negligently to God’s word is just as guilty as one who through carelessness allows Christ’s body to fall to the ground”.
Ours is a very noisy world, filled perhaps with too many words. It may be said that our condition is the opposite of that of the man in the Gospel who was brought to Jesus because he was deaf and had an impediment in his speech. Our lives are filled with many words but most of them are empty. Many people are alienated not only from God but also from others and even from themselves. The words of the Prophet Isaiah seem to describe the alienation that is felt and experienced by many in our cacophonous world. “My people go into exile for want of knowledge” (5:13). It may very well be that the noise and din of so many words has caused us to turn a deaf ear to the Word of God which is “living and active… discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Our call to Christian discipleship invites us to enter into a dialogue with the Word of God. This Word (Logos) contains a logic that can and does give meaning and purpose to our lives – and not our lives alone. For history proves that following Christ is the greatest good for man.
“‘Ephphatha,’ that is ‘Be opened.’” Let us open our hearts and minds today to the power and wisdom of the Word of God. A year of grace is about to begin for the whole Church. It is meant to be a year of personal and collective renewal. At the very beginning of his pontificate our Holy Father said: “The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance” (Quoted in Porta Fidei, 2). He also said: “There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him”. It is my hope and prayer that our reflection on the Word of God today and every day that this Word is proclaimed from our pulpit, may help all of us to know “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” (Rom. 11:33). Let us ask for the grace to see in the Year of Faith that is about to begin an opportunity to deepen our faith, love and friendship with Jesus our Lord. Let us also pray for all those whose faith has become weak and for those of no faith, that we may all receive the word “with all eagerness” (Acts 11:17).