Ritual and Formula are Not Enough

Weekly Missionary Reflection
23rd Week in Ordinary Time, 5 September 2021
Isa. 35:4-7a; Ps. 146:7,8-9a,9bc-10; Jas 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37

Last week Jesus reformulated the concept of “clean-unclean”. God’s holiness does not need to be protected and bordered, it must be expanded and shared instead!. After this concept was dismantled, He began to break the geographical barrier and border. He entered the areas which were often labelled as unclean. He went to the region of Tyre, and had dialogue with a Syrophoenician woman and healed her daughter (Mark 7:24-30). Today’s Gospel continues Jesus’ work to break the barrier and cross the border. He kept walking North (Sidon) and then to South East, into the region of Decapolis, a Gentile area which was labelled infidel and unclean. There was no single area that escaped Jesus’ attention!

Deaf and speech impediment are not only physical disabilities. That was also a sign of human being bound by the evil spirit. He was a symbol of human being who could not communicate with others and God. He was an isolated and imprisoned person in his loneliness. Evil spirits cause human to be “locked” in ego and narrow understanding and belief. Therefore, Jesus’ command is strict: “Ephphatha”, means “be opened!”. This “foreign” word could be misunderstood as a magic spell, especially it was combined by touching and spitting. Anyway, this is a standard pattern: Jesus’ ministry through words and action! He uttered this word after “looking up to heaven”. Jesus relied on healing power of God, instead of magic of words. Please bear in mind that according to Judaism, in addition to therapeutic power, saliva was also a “breath condensed into liquid”. So, Jesus heals with His breath, that is His spirit. Healing is part of the mystery of God’s Kingdom that He is enacting . Thus, He performed it in private, away from the crowd. They were ordered not to tell anybody. Jesus did not want to be regarded as just a healer and miracle worker. The focus of His work must be maintained: presenting God’s power that delivers human beings from any evil binding and spirit.

Therefore, today’s Gospel ends with praising Jesus, instead of the euphoria of a miracle. The ears of humans being delivered from evil power will be opened to listen to His words. Human’s tongue is untied from the bound of evil spirit, so he can proclaim the enlightening and healing word of God. That is the essence of Jesus’ miracle: enabling us to listen and proclaim. God’s intervention through the work of Jesus is real new. Therefore, the people will absolutely be amazed. However, it is not enough. This amazement must end with faith confession on Jesus’ identity: “He has done everything well” (v. 37). Jesus presents God the Creator who has made everything “well” from the beginning (Gen. 1). He also presents God the Deliverance as the prophet had foretold: He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak (cf. Isa. 35:5-6).

You and I are reminded not to rely on miracle, formulation nor verse! It is not enough to be religious with ritual and formula that are memorized and recited in worship. Religion must present the power of God, who create, heal and deliver. That is the “miracle” of Jesus that we have to continue, as He has set us free so that we are enabled to listen and share His words to the world.

(Hortensio Mandaru – Indonesia Bible Society, Jakarta)


Lord, our Father, I present my today prayer, thought, word, work, joy and sorrow in the unity with Your Son, Jesus Christ, who always presents Himself in the Eucharist for the world salvation. May the Holy Spirit, as the soul of Jesus, also lead and give me the strength today so that I am ready to be the witness of Your love.

Together with St. Mary, Mother of Jesus and the Church, I specially present my prayer to our Pope and Indonesian Church prayer apostles of this month:

For Evangelization intention:
Eco-fiendly life style: Let us pray to be encouraged to make brave decision for eco-friendly and simple life style, to rejoice with the young people who are boldly committed to this. We pray …

For Indonesian Churches intention:
Those depressed by economic problems: May those depressed by economic problems be able to find new business that can be a new source of income. We pray …

Special Intention for the year of St. Joseph:
Please direct our life history to as the life history of St. Joseph whom You have guided to unite with his ancestors, as told in the Bible. We pray…

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