For anyone who doesn’t know what this word means, it’s Greek, literally, it means to be “opened up”. A phrase spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of Mark when he cures a deaf man of his hearing loss. Subsequently he also had a speech impediment, probably due to the deafness, and this was taken away as well. The man was cured, and this event caused such a stir as to involve the community in an exuberance to proclaim the deeds of Jesus. I was reading this passage this morning, and it made me think of when I was a child and I heard the priest give his homily on just this topic. Over and over within the homily he said the word, ephphatha, and his translation with arms in a large circular motion (like warm-ups in physical education class as a child) he would say, “be opened”. In his exuberance, from a child’s perspective, he looked a little silly, but seemed to have purpose. As I’ve thought on this physical display of his point, I realized what he was attempting to do. His attempt to impart a point of referential fervor onto an otherwise similar grain of text, as it relates to the gospels, was successful. Well done, father, even to this day I remember a good portion of your homily and points made within.
This has also made me aware of what Jesus did as it related to any miracle he granted. Take for instance, the woman in Matthew 9:20-22 who touched the hem of Jesus’s garment, and was suddenly cured from a persistent hemorrhage which had plagued her for the last twelve years. There was no hand waving, and cracks of thunder didn’t create a cacophony of noise to make people drop to the ground. Instead, Jesus, turns around and indicates her faith has saved her. This was all in an otherwise seemingly normal transaction between two people. So, why are the miracles performed differently for people? Why are some miracles just granted, and why are some physically manifested? I know when something miraculous happens before our eyes, we are more apt to remember or even believe it when we detect a mechanism as the switch. So, for instance, when Jesus creates the mud and smears it on the blind man’s eyes, this is the mechanism for us as a physical sign something has changed. As humans, we don’t seem to be able to accept what we can’t see, or in this case what we can’t acknowledge as a verifiable event. Our need to remember as a matter of acceptance is paramount to believing in anything. There are even those people who could witness a miraculous event and still deny it ever happened.
In the purpose of the priest who dramatically recreated the events, at least in action, of a miracle Jesus completed, he achieved a point of discussion thirty years later. I still remember his points, I still remember the miracle, and what it means for all of us, and I still have a nuanced understanding of how those miracles big in their presentation relate to our lives which are diminutive in comparison to the overall all spectrum of human events. The command to be “opened up” carries an awesome explicit and implicit direction. The divine has commanded us to be open, and create an openness with everything we do. A closed action, mind, or emotion prevents us from truly loving our neighbor. A closed soul if you will, stops us from truly understanding the motives of another, and keeps us poised for disagreement and strife at any level. As a man, I feel like this is very hard to accomplish, I don’t want to be open, especially if I’m not receiving a reciprocal action from another individual. It’s very difficult for me to accept anything than what I see before me. If someone is behaving poorly and I detect this, my man-o-meter (not to be confused with the liquid/pressure measurement tool) says, “don’t’ budge, let them make the first move”. Pretty stubborn, but this is how my mind works. Though, being open means to make the first move. Men are pretty good at this, we are traditionally more aggressive, and it takes almost no effort to walk across the line and be open. Now, I’m not suggesting we be ignorant of a tense situation or walk into certain danger. What I mean more, is having an ability to see, where we are being deficient, as it relates to any relationship, and make it right.
As a husband, I also fight to truly be “opened up” with my spouse. I can talk all day about anything, just name the topic. Though, this isn’t what I truly mean about being “opened up”; having an ability to open one’s self to listening and understanding our spouse, carries with it an immeasurable amount of love. Many times, I want to fix what is broken or not working right, and this also means any issues or problems my spouse has. Often like a bull in a china shop, I want to fix her issues. She doesn’t want this for two obvious reasons, she’s incredible intelligent, and she knows what she wants she just wants me to listen and affirm for her what she already knows. On the surface of my last sentence, this just sounds like “yes” or “no” type of response and it very well could be without one distinct understanding. How much trust must you put in someone to tell them what you think and truly care about their opinion? I think this is a mountain of trust she places upon me to help her know, based on the revelation of her feelings and thoughts, what is best for her and if her decisions will be received well. I really can’t think of anything I would rather be doing than getting her approval and trust as it pertains to my relationship with her. As a husband, I must be open to everything which creates a more loving and accepting relationship with my wife. One conduit of acceptance, is our faith, we hold the same fervor for a faith in God, and as one, we teach this fervor and belief to our children.
As a father, being open to my kids helps me in more ways than I can possibly imagine. In the past when I was unwilling to be open with myself and to anyone around me, I found my rigidity was something I relied upon, and expected everyone to follow. It was going to be my way or the highway mentality. What I’ve discovered over the years, is in this conditional world I lived in, I presented a conditional case without realizing it. I implied to my kids, my wife, and anyone near me, I was a conditional person who is easily disrupted and offended. I was morosely unhappy with life. I always believed in God, and I always understood the concept of love as best as I could grasp it, but I just didn’t know how to practice it, as it came to understand and being open to people I’m involved with. I was creating my own hell, as it were, and people were running away in droves. When at a low point, I considered myself, and at the words people spoke to me in righteous anger, I realized I was the problem.
Are you the problem? Have you, as a father, husband, or man become so rigid within your understanding of life, you’ve failed to be open? Are you open to the good will of another by the goodness of yourself poured out selflessly?
If you answered, “yes” to anyone of these, then you probably are where I was at for a very long time. The great news is, redemption is always being offered to you in every which way you can imagine, your spirit must be willing to accept it when it comes to you though. Be open to accepting love where you least expect it. This may come in the form of a gesture which seems rather innocuous, but in a string of actions tied together, becomes an unbreakable chain of the strongest unconditional love possible. This is what I struggled with for some time, was an ability to recognize everything ties to something else, and only looking at the here and now, without a recognition of past efforts is foolish and selfish when dealing with a loved one.
Because I spent so many years worrying more about myself than anyone else, I have a regret about the amount of time I wasted being so selfish. I probably over correct now in my attention to detail, and I probably annoy my spouse more than anything when it comes to talking. Though, this is something I should learn the ropes to. Being willing to put ourselves out there and literally will the good of the other, is extremely hard for me. I’m not any different than anyone reading this, and I know all of us have at one point or twenty points, dealt with someone who causes us all sorts of grief. These people seemingly go out of their way to make our lives difficult. They, like our siblings, find what creates the most turmoil and in their most passive aggressive or generally aggressive ways continue their contrivances annoyances. In one most recent event for me, I was dealing with someone, who in their general insecurities, created an adversary of me on everything I did. They talked down to me in a most condescending way, and then changed their mind after I fulfilled their wishes. To say the least I was frustrated, my relationship with this person was affecting my general health, and causing a great number of sleepless nights. When I spoke with my wife about how this was affecting me, she gave me the greatest advice, “you never know what someone just might be going through, pray for them, because you might be the only person willing to pray”. When she said this to me, you could have knocked me over with one touch. For me, this advice was an 8.5 on the Richter Scale, it shook me all the way down to my foundations, and I was forced (in a very good way) to rethink everything I ever thought about any of the adversarial relationships in my past. If I’d just spent a little more time, thinking and praying on those people who were misaligned with me, I may have had a better relationship altogether, or at the very least accepted them for who they are. Willing the good of the over, means just this to me. Of course, willing the good of the other involves a distinct understanding of charity, but charity usually has meant giving to those who needed in the past. Needed to me, was a matter of money or clothes or food, but charity never meant prayer. The foundational change came for me as a matter of perspective, charity is giving something to someone who needs a kindness to fulfill a need. I never looked at prayer as being a need. However, prayer is a definite need, prayer is something all of us need. We need to give it as often as we can and we must be open to receive it as often as possible.
Prayer, for me, is the best way I know to be open with everything I do. When I can pray, I can meditate and think on the issues of another, but opens the door to a more understanding and compassionate man, father, and husband. Men must be strong of will and moral character by my estimation, it’s the way we were created and it is our role as handed to us, out of love, by God. Willingness to accept this is willingness to be open to life and the people in our lives. We don’t get to pick and choose how to be open though, when we do, we begin to live a close and unjoyful life. Be open, love with every ounce of your being, and this mean even those people who give you the most problems, you may be the only person willing to pray and love them back. When we will the good of the other, and we choose to love them no matter what, we won’t live with regrets. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!!!