Courage to Journey Inward (Trinity XII sermon)

T12 - Jesus-Heals deaf mute (1)

2 Corinthians 3:4-9       St Mark 7:31-37


Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him,
“Ephphatha”, that is, “Be opened.”
And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.


In the last couple of Sundays we have turned our attention towards the inner life of the soul.

  • Two Sundays ago, the Gospel was the cleansing of the Temple by Jesus. Jesus comes to us inwardly and helps drive out all the discordant noise inwardly so that we can hear him teaching us daily in our souls, in the Temple that is our body.  This is not something immediate, but a lifetime of spiritual practices that attend to the inner life to quiet down our thoughts that we might see as God sees.
  • And last Sunday, the Gospel was the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.  We were reminded that we will continue to grow and mature as Christians if instead of looking at others and comparing our spiritual growth with them, we continue to look at ourselves inwardly and recognize that we too still must always rely on the mercy of God.

We are turning inward, because this is where we discover the kingdom of God – within us and above us.  We are in the process of being reawakened to the true glory of being sons and daughters of God.  That means, we are promised a closeness to God, a daily listening for guidance, an inner vision is opening up in us, and we are recovering our higher reason – turning it from being directed into the world to its true purpose, towards a heavenly vision.

This Sunday we have a similar message to the last – it is still about needing to trust in the mercy of God – but it reveals itself in a different way.

Supposing we do look inward and are listening for a word from God inwardly, and the word we hear is one of judgement and condemnation of some outward action, or of our inner thoughts or motivations.  We might find this to be discouraging.

We can try to ignore what we heard, distracting ourselves by busying ourselves again outwardly.  But the problem with asserting that we are OK, that all is well, is that it doesn’t deal with the root of our problem, we will live only partly in the truth and so we are only partly free.  Holding this unresolved inner anxiety will be discouraging and will be hinder our growth in Christ.  Our ascent up the stairs to heaven will be halted, it will be as if we had sat down on the steps, refusing the voice that calls us higher and refusing the grace that will lift us there.


Our two readings show us the way of hope and of great encouragement in the face of inner anxiety about our actions or thoughts.

In today’s Epistle Paul compares the old and new covenants.  The Covenant in the Old Testament, summarized in the Ten Commandments, Moses received written on stone, and people were called to follow them.  They were taught that when the commandments were broken, restoration came through the offering of various sacrifices.  The people learned that breaking the covenant was costly and that they must trust in the mercy of God.  But knowing the right way, was not enough, they began to look for a Saviour who could also change their hearts – because the Law by itself cannot do that.  St. Paul describes the Law as a covenant of condemnation – it condemned without providing a permanent solution to our waywardness.

The New Covenant in Christ still involves the judgement of our actions.   But it is different in these ways:

  • we know more quickly in our hearts when we have done something wrong – if we are listening, the Spirit of Christ will tell us.
  • we are less and less afraid of such judgements, because of the assurances of Jesus: he gave up His life for us on the Cross and pours out his pure and sinless blood to wash and restore us perfectly.
  • And in this New Covenant the Spirit of Christ is not just revealing our errors, but our hearts are being reformed inwardly so that we sin less and less and our desire can be released to its true ends, the love of God and our neighbour.

In the Old Covenant, which was glorious, the children of Israel could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end.  St. Paul asks… will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?

It is more glorious because the face that we are being made ready to behold is not that of Moses, but of Jesus Christ – now we see through a mirror darkly, but then face to face.    Such is the confidence that we have through Christ towards God, says St Paulto not be discouraged by these revelations but to seek out with greater zeal the perfection of Christ.

And something happens to us, as our inner vision, that inner mirror that is our soul, is perfected by the blood of Christ.  As we see ever more clearly…our mouths are opened more and more in prayer and in praise.


Our Gospel today addresses the situation of our fear of judgement that comes if we look closely at ourselves.

And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

Surely this is the situation of each of us if on our journey we are afraid because we hear the judgement of our actions but do not trust that it is a voice full of mercy.  And if we refuse to hear this voice, and remain in our sins, we have little desire to pray to God or to praise God for his goodness.

Imagine that man who was deaf and had a speech impediment because of it – children and adults can be cruel to one another – mocking him for the way he spoke.  Jesus took him aside from the crowd privately.  Is he responding to the man’s shame and embarrassment?

he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha”, that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure.

 The miracle in today’s Gospel points to the truth of what happens to each one of us as we come apart from the multitudes to worship God on Sunday.  Or if we come privately before a priest or a trusted friend to openly confess what is troubling our heart.

In the liturgy we hear the Word of God outwardly.  We catch a glimpse of the face of Jesus Christ – and the Holy Spirit, the finger of God, touches us within, pointing to the things that our conscience is afraid of inwardly.  Has the Spirit brought something to your mind even now?

Then in the liturgy we are invited to freely confess our sins (inwardly to God) and know we can trust in the mercy shown us by God as we recall Christ’s sacrifice for us – as we eat the Bread of Heaven and drink from the Cup of Salvation.  And when we know that forgiveness, we are moved to thank and praise God for His goodness. We sing out our final songs, I think usually with more wholehearted joy and thanksgiving, having been brought into an encounter with the living God, than when we began the service.

There is also a corporate dimension to this Gospel, and the activity of the Holy Spirit in us.

When Jesus returned with the man to the crowds and they saw that the man was healed, Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure.

Do you see how the miracle affected a second miracle.  Before the miracle, this same crowd was curious about Jesus, but they weren’t praising him.  But after witnessing the miracle their tongues also were loosed to tell others about Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is not only opening our ears to our own inner distresses, but at the same time opening our ears to the distresses of others around us.  And as we experience our own inner healings and transformations, we will be less afraid and more compelled by love to share what we know about the saving work of Jesus Christ with those around us.

Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him,
“Ephphatha”, that is, “Be opened.”
And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

Amen +

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