Real vs.Imaginary Jesus

(Homily 23rd Sunday, B)

Jesus touched the deaf man's ears and said "Ephphatha."

Some words are so precious that they are preserved in their original language. In our nation of immigrants we can give many examples of that. When I was child my mom used to prepare a dish called kupusa which was Croatian style cabbage. I know an Italian family who calls their grandmother nonna. And I heard about a man of German ancestry who when he is alone with his wife calls her schatzee.

In the Gospel, which were written in Greek, we find many words from the original Aramaic. Some have entered our vocabulary. Alleluia--praise God. Amen--just so and Messiah--the anointed one. Today we hear another Aramaic word Ephphetha, which means, be opened. Even tho it isn't part of our everyday use, we do find it in our baptismal rituals. After a child is baptized there is the beautiful rite of Ephphetha. The priest touches the newly baptized child's ears and mouth and says, "The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb 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."

And before an adult catechumen recites the creed, the celebrant may touch his ears and lips and say, "Ephphatha: that is, be opened, that you may profess the faith you hear to the praise and glory of God."

Jesus wants to open our ears, wants us to listen to him. The deepest desire of any human being is to be understood. Mother Teresa talked about that. We are all hungering for love, to be truly cared about, to be understood. Jesus of course is the one who knows each of us intimately, but he also wants us to listen to him. Not so much for his sake, but for our own sake. For our salvation. That is why he opened the deaf man's ears.

Some people have in their minds a kind of imaginary Jesus. They say things like, "Oh, Jesus won't care if I do such and such. Jesus doesn't mind if I have a few extra beers or take this drug. He understands if I can't tell my parents exactly what I am doing. He doesn't mind if I stay in bed on Sunday morning rather than go to Mass." I even knew a man who was meeting with a woman who was not his wife who said, "Jesus would understand why I need to be with her." That's an imaginary Jesus. The real Jesus has a word for that and he was not afraid to say it, adultery.

Jesus was direct and blunt. Not because he wants to heap guilt and shame on us, but because he loves us. He wants us to repent, come back to him, to find true happiness.

The world loved and admired Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Mourns her death. Not just because of her works of charity, but because she said things the way they were. She was blunt and direct. When she came to the White House in the presence of Bill and Hillary Clinton she talked about the immorality of abortion. Some would call that bad manners. She said, "If you don't want your baby, give him to me. There is no unwanted child. Mother Teresa wants your child."

Now I won't go that far myself, but I have helped girls who were in troubled pregnancies. I know Holy Family Parish will help any woman who is in that situation.

Jesus, like Mother Teresa, was direct, straightforward. In our parish we will have a couple of opportunities to hear the message of the real Jesus. On the weekend of October 17, 18, 19 we will have a Parish Mission. Perhaps you have already noticed the posters. Two Catholic lay evangelists will conduct the Mission. John Schweisthal and Brian Casey have been going throughout the country and throughout the world giving these life changing missions. It is for the whole family. Friday evening will have a special youth focus. They will address "the trap of trying to become somebody." All of us of course can fall into that trap. The theme of the Mission will be "Becoming One in Jesus" which is exactly the goal of our parish. Please set aside that weekend for this life changing experience.

We have a second opportunity, even more immediate, of opening ourselves to the teachings of Jesus. A couple of months ago I mentioned in a homily that I would like every home in our parish to have a copy of the Catechism. Since then some generous people have made a donation of a good number. We were going to distribute them free, but we want to make sure they are read so we are asking a symbolic donation of $2. Those moneys will go to our parish religious education program.

The important thing to understand about the Catechism is that it is not the teaching of men, but the teaching of Jesus himself. This is the first universal Catechism in four hundred years. Some people ask, "Why do we need a new catechism? Are there new teachings?" Not at all. The teachings of the Catechism are the same as Jesus gave to his apostles. However we have some new questions, ones people did not have at the time of Jesus or even four hundred years ago. We have developed new technologies, some good, some bad: the atom bomb, television, computers. So much depends on how we use this new technology. Let me give you an example. Scientific technicians have been able to separate procreation, the conception of a child, from the act of marital love. They do this in a small glass dish and call it in vitro fertilization. What would you say to a couple, who can't conceive a child and are considering that procedure? More important, what would Jesus say to them? You can find the answer in this book--very clear and concise in paragraph 2376.

Oftentimes we are not sure about the teaching on a particular topic: homosexuality, drug use, premarital sex, euthanasia. One of the great thinngs about this Catechism is that it has an index so you can look up the response to such questions. Suppose someone asks you why we have statues in the Catholic Church or whether Jesus had brothers and sisters or why we go to confession. You can find a concise teaching in this book.

Now if you want an imaginary Jesus who tells you anything you want to do is OK, stay away from this book. But following an imaginary Jesus, though soothing for a time, will lead to your own destruction--perhaps eternally. The real Jesus wants your happiness in this world and the next. If you want to know Him, this is the book for you.

I remember when I was in Peru each day as part of my morning prayer I read a page or two of the Catechism. It took over a year but it was a wonderful way of hearing Jesus challenging message.

Jesus touched the ears of the deaf man and said, Ephphatha. He wants to touch our ears as well so we can really listen to him and to each other. Through that listening we will find life and salvation.

From Archives (Homilies for 23rd Sunday, Year B):

2012: A Work of Liberation
2009: Hearing his Voice
2006: The March of Folly
2003: Lord, Cleanse My Lips
2000: What is Friendship with Jesus?
1997: Real vs. Imaginary Jesus

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Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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