The message from this week’s Gospel (Mark 7:31-37), Ephphatha (Be Opened), is an invitation for us to listen – to ourselves, each other, creation and God.

It is Jesus who can open our ears to hear the other, and we are being invited into these moments of grace.

Over the weekend, while reading for the course I am studying on the Theology of Childhood, I read the following words about grace written by Denis Edwards in Human Experience of God:

These can be called experiences of grace, not now simply because they come upon us as a gift, but because they are the gift of God himself, present and active in our lives. Grace is God communicating himself to us in the Spirit, freely loving us, forgiving us, inviting us into relationship with him and calling us to the transformation of the world as disciples of Jesus. (p 58)

This involves opening our eyes, ears, mind and heart, even during these days of lockdown.

During the week, I attended the Catholic Mission Conference, One Heart Many Voices, which began with Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, a teacher, artist, respected elder, and this year’s Senior Australian of the Year, from the Daly River, speaking to us. She spoke about Dadirii, the need for all of us to be silent so as to listen deeply to the deep springs within us and around us, so as to connect. It is in this quiet stillness that we grow in our inner and outer awareness. I shared with you earlier this year her You Tube on Dadirri which you may wish to visit again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tow2tR_ezL8

It was lovely to sit at my desk at home, with Miriam on the screen, talking to me/us with her gentleness, wisdom, culture, knowledge and faith. She is grounded in her connection to land, people and culture, and by just being in her presence, even virtually, was powerful. She invited all of the participants into the sacredness of time and space.

I believe, this is what the Plenary Council and the Diocesan Synod are calling us to. Synodality, our journeying together, invites us to this deep listening, spiritually and prayerfully, collaboratively and cooperatively, so that we, God’s people can be fully the people we are created and called to be. I have no doubt that we are being called to slow down and to share our Christian stories with anyone who will listen, particularly our young people. Humans are a people of story. We must provide our young people with the space and time to listen respectfully to their elders as they hold within them the deep springs of inner knowing.

Just another paragraph to share from the writings of Denis Edwards:

The attempt to evangelise only through the transfer of explicit doctrine from one person to another is doomed to failure. A Christian woman who would share her faith with a friend would best begin by listening to her friend at depth. To take seriously the experience of the friend, to listen attentively and receive it as a gift, is already to share one’s faith. The listener is communicating her sense of reverence for what is occurring in her friend’s experience, already saying implicitly: “This is the place of grace.” If the woman can enable her friend to notice mystery and grace in her life, the explicit Gospel message can bring illumination, joy, and the possibility of real conversion.

The process of preaching the Gospel must always respect the twofold nature of God’s self-communication. The One who is revealed to us explicitly in Jesus is already communicating himself obscurely to those who are yet to hear the Gospel for the first time. The preacher of the Gospel must know that what is being preached is already known in an obscure way by those who are listening, since their lives are lived in a world of grace.(p 62)

In our baptismal ritual after the anointing with the oil of Chrism, the pouring of water, the lighting of the candle and the clothing with the white garment the following Ephphetha prayer is prayed over the ears and mouth, while the celebrant touches the ears and mouth of the person who is being baptised:

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.

I think of those parents who have held their children while this prayer has been prayed, and on this Father’s Day, I also think of the men who are fathering their children across a range of circumstances.

This week is National Child Protection Week with the theme – Every child, in every community needs a fair go. To treat all of Australia’s children fairly, we need to make sure every family and community has what kids need to thrive and be healthy.

I am very mindful that in the diocese we provide many services to children and their families, and we do so with the consciousness of keeping children safe by looking after their welfare and well-being. We are reminded to listen to and value the voice of children and young people. If you wish to know more about our diocesan commitment to keep children and young people safe, I invite you to visit our diocesan Office of Safeguarding website www.officeofsafeguarding.org.au

May our eyes, ears, minds and hearts remain open to listening and responding so that God’s desire for humanity is realised. We especially remember the Plenary Council members, who how have the task and privilege to open themselves to the Holy Spirit as together they seek to hear the Spirit’s voice sounding through every dimension of the Plenary Council journey.

Lord God, give us ears to listen humbly to each other and a discerning heart to hear what you are saying. (Plenary Council Prayer)


Teresa Brierley
Director Pastoral Ministries
9 September 2021

Follow mnnews.today on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.