The most fundamental act of empowerment is to treat each other with respect
“‘Ephphatha!’ (Be opened!) and immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.”
I have always considered this healing miracle as one with “cinematic flair.” Imagine the crowd begging Christ to heal the deaf man with a speech defect, and amid these pleas, he withdraws with the man to heal him in private.
Christ then performs the healing ritual, raises his eyes to heaven, utters (groans) a prayer or plea, and declares the man healed.
Steps to empowerment
It is a dramatic, moving moment. Here are three points to reflect on in this story, or what we can call the steps to empowerment.
One, Christ empowers in a very personal way. Two, he does what is needed, the ritual actions and the intercession. Three, he declares, or as we often say, he claims.
Empowerment as a very personal act is something we need to understand better and appreciate deeper. We cannot empower in a detached way, i.e., we have to enter into a relationship with the one we empower.
We see this in the very personal relationships we have in our families, work teams, friends, etc. Beyond this personal circle, it is still possible to do this.
Last week, I mentioned the experience of Tulong-Dunong, in which high school seniors, through a yearlong weekly tutorial with eight students in Grade 6, develop a personal relationship with these kids. This “gives poverty a face” for these high school seniors.
In an even broader context, it is relating with others based on our shared humanity. In Filipino, it is “pakikipagkapwa-tao”—relating and dealing with everyone, regardless of status, personal beliefs, etc.
The late Fr. Howard Gray, SJ, mentioned, in one of his talks, how he developed a natural respect for people as unique human beings. He told the story of his grandmother, whom he asked, when he was 7, how babies came into the world.
His grandmother stopped what she was doing, sat down with him, and explained, in a very respectful way—not “baby talk”—how babies were conceived and born.
That made a very deep impression on him and became his gold standard of how people are to be treated with respect.
The most fundamental act of empowerment is to treat each other with respect, that we all have one shared humanity, and we enter this common ground, “pakikipagkapwa-tao.”
Prayer and action
Only after this are we able to do what is needed—prayer and action. This is the linchpin of the process. Action that comes from prayerful discernment is always empowering.
In the end, all graces are expressed in deeds, through acts of love and service. As St. Ignatius of Loyola put it, “love is best expressed in deeds” that empower people, giving them the freedom to choose and choose rightly.
It is this choice that completes the process of empowerment. –CONTRIBUTED
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