Sunday 5 September 2021

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B

Word for today
The Gospel of Mark 7:31-37


The Nabataeans were north-Semitic tribes, an ethnic group coming from the desert devoted to nomadism. They arrived in southern Jordan from Arabia between the sixth and fourth centuries BC, settling in the land of Edom and driving out the Edomites from the City of Tombs in 500 BC.
During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, Petra, the so-called city of tombs, was the capital of the Nabataeans. They made this extraordinarily beautiful city into one of the largest and most powerful commercial trade posts in the Middle East. It became a strategic crossroads for caravan routes along which aromas from the Arabian peninsula, silk from China, spices and incense from India were transported from southern Arabia to Palestine and the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt, and Syria.
In 63 BC the Romans, hoping to take over Petra and to subdue the commercial and cultural power of the Nabateans - who were particularly skilled in civil and monumental art as well as in business - launched a sudden attack on the city. The venture failed because it was too costly and counterproductive. In fact, the Romans did not intend to indiscriminately destroy a city they considered useful, beautiful and valuable. So they came up with a political solution which aimed to block the expansion of Petra and the Nabataeans. The following year, in 62 BC, they set up a special political alliance with ten free city-states, precisely the Decapolis. One of the first examples of a single supreme government, it aimed to prevent the further expansion of the Nabataeans and to impede their commercial and political development. The Decapolis acted as a net that first commercially and then politically halted Petra's exports and imports, making any sort of expansion difficult.  Decapolis was thus an alliance of ten cities sharing the same cultural, economic, and linguistic system that was granted legislative, political, and commercial autonomy by the Roman empire so that they could suppress Petra and its empire. It was a single government legally created to colonize, subdue and oppress a people by persuasion, economic coercion, trade embargoes without the direct use of weapons.
Carved into the rock and known for its breathtaking view, the city was suffocated by the political alliances and unfair commercial intrigues of that single government. Fifty years later, Petra, City of the Tombs, was conquered by the Romans and its inhabitants offered no resistance. It was already a dead city.
Jesus arrived in the midst of that region during his travels. He arrived at that historical place, at that extraordinary crossroad, at that beautiful city-empire developed without knowledge of the true God. It was, in fact, called the City of Tombs, a city of death. Although a very powerful city it had not elevated itself toward God's light and was experiencing the burden of violence and defeat/suppression.
It was there that Jesus met the deaf-mute man, an episode which is described only by the evangelist Mark. There, in that beautiful but oppressed land, in the heart of a legalized global and predator government, Jesus cries out to the world, Ephphatha!" (that is, "Be opened!"), more literally: Be open. The evangelist transcribed the precise Aramaic words into the Greek  â€œBe open.” Jesus' words were so powerful that the evangelist could not even translate them.
Then the Gospel says: And (immediately) the man's ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. The inner liberation, the liberation of a people from all kinds of slavery and fear is a matter of opening: opening the soul's ears in order to know, opening the mind's ears in order to understand, opening the heart's ears in order to adhere, opening the soul's ears in order to recognize.
Be open! Jesus cries it out to the world, to His people, to each one of us. Be open! Jesus' words go beyond cultures, beyond our traditional way of thinking, well beyond other people's expectations that we are constantly trying to meet, beyond any mental/cultural training and conditioning, beyond emotional blackmail and visceral affective bonds. Be open! Because your understanding, opinions, and beliefs are nothing compared to what is still left to be known. Be open! Beyond self-absorbed love, self-importance and egoism. Be open! Beyond the falsified vision of yourself and of reality that make us slaves of the ephemeral and stupidity.
Opening our ears to what God is saying to our hearts, in silence, beyond people's opinions and beliefs is the first step toward liberation. If one opens his/her ears, s/he will also loosen his/her tongue. When we open ourselves to awareness, true communication, as well as a true relationship with ourselves, with others, with creation, and with our Ever-loving Lord become possible. Opening our ears means abbandoning conventions, securities, as well as acquired and crystallized interpretation codes of our minds.
Opening our ears to God's voice and loosening the knot of our communicative skills makes us free, strong, and agile fighters, even without arms, against the colonizers and slave dealers of every century.
Be open also means not putting up resistance, not opposing, not condemning, not separating if you really want to learn from reality. Be open means surrendering oneself to reality, accepting it without being resigned. To surrender does not mean to passively or willingly endure, it does not mean remaining immobile in the situation in which we find ourselves. Be open means never stop desiring - in whatever circumstances we find ourselves - God's wishes and our wishes for a real life. God's desires are perfectly collected and clearly expressed in the Beatitudes and mean setting out on the path of positive actions, following the flow of life without opposing its natural course. Be open means abbandoning our inner resistance to that which is the only possible way to face life.
To be open means giving up fighting for how things are and should be. To be open is to learn from reality the infinite possibilities that life offers us. But our way of thinking, which is terribly attached to routine and weak, goes against our efforts. Our mental system hates novelty and opportunities, it is more afraid of them than of death.
Be open is the opposite of our saying no resolutely by which we oppose life in every situation because of our prejudice, condemnation and negative inner dialogue.
Be open synthesizes perfectly the evangelical spiritual procedures that enable people to learn all the best from life itself and to stop being afraid.
Be open is cried out to Petra's people, to its blocked beauty, to the mummies of its high and refined culture who did not know God's smile. Be open does not include fear, anger, haste, tension, comparison, competition, judgment, condemnation, separation or destruction. Be open leads to positive actions, tolerance, long-term relationships, wisdom, intelligence, health.
Be open means never putting up resistance to the present,  never being tempted to change others but to keeping the desires of the Beatitudes as the most powerful ones in our hearts and minds. 
God's desires in our hearts are the source of energy without limits enabling us to face any present that life concedes and gives us.