Once upon a time, I was at the entrance of a Church exchanging greetings with people after the mass when an older woman walks up to me looking apologetic. While holding my hand in the manner of salutation, she tells me in a rather thunderous voice that she thought I gave a beautiful homily from her observation, but she could not hear anything because she had completely lost the ability to hear. I could not say anything to her because she would not hear me either, so I kept nodding with empathetic affirmation until she says goodbye and leaves.
Talking and hearing are very vital in our daily interactions. We cannot imagine a world without ears and mouths; that would change the whole dynamics of communication and comprehension. Hearing, talking, including seeing, and walking are so essential to life that those who do not have them are considered to have an impairment or disability. In the First Reading (Isaiah 35:4-7a), we hear the oracle of the prophet declaring God’s promise of restoration and recompense to those who are suffering from these misfortunes.
In the Gospel Reading (Mark 7:31-37), our Lord Jesus Christ heals a deaf man who also had a speech impediment. The connection between the First Reading and the Gospel Reading is the same as the connection between a promise and its fulfillment. At the beginning of his ministry, we heard our Lord Jesus Christ declaring his manifesto when he says, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”, (Luke 4:18-19).
The Gospel narrative about the healing of the deaf and dumb man leaves us with a lot of lessons about openness which forms the central theme of our reflection today.
Openness to help others.
The Gospel begins with some people bringing a deaf and dumb man to Jesus and begging him to lay his hand on him. The action of the unnamed people is an indication of goodwill and charity, moreover, bringing anyone to Jesus is the noblest and precious gift we can give. The Gospel of Luke (5:17-39) presents a similar scenario where some people had to remove the roof of a house to lower down a paralyzed man to where Jesus was preaching in a crowded room so that he could heal him. Let us learn to be open to helping others.
Openness to leave the crowd.
Responding to the people’s request, our Lord Jesus Christ takes the man away from the crowd. The crowd here stands for all the hindering spiritual, moral, even physical elements around us. The deaf and dumb man was open to the invitation to leave the crowd, and that was the first step to his healing. Many of us are still suffering from the overwhelming sway of the crowd with all the noise in the world today from both the social and conventional media. There is the need for us to be open to allow the Lord to take us away from the crowd so that we can experience that special touch that would transform us to become committed hearers and to proclaim His name.
Openness to break barriers.
When Jesus Christ accepted to heal the deaf and dumb man, he broke the unjustifiable barrier between the able and the disabled; he bridged the gap between the well and the unwell. St. James reinforces this in the Second Reading (James 2:1-5) where he instructs that there should be no partiality among us as we adhere to the faith in Jesus Christ. We need to break the social, economic, political and religious barriers that confront us.
Openness to the healing touch of the Lord.
If we pay attention to the ritual that accompanied the healing of the deaf and dumb man we could see the man’s willingness and compliance to the healing process. In the narrative, we learn that our Lord had to put his finger into the man’s ears, and spitting he touches his tongue with saliva and says ephphatha, which is, “be opened.” During this process, the man remains open and accepting. We need to be open to the healing touch of the word God to our ears and His touch on our mouths in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
Openness to being open.
The call for openness has become very imperative in our day and age as people clamor for transparency and docility both in the State and in the Church. Openness to being open requires us to listen with profound charity and speak with clarity. If we pay attention to the healing process, we could see that our Lord opened the ears before the mouth. The priority that the ears received during the healing tells us about the importance of listening more than talking; that could be why God gave us two ears and one mouth. This Openness should start with our families; among couples, children, relations, and friends.
We are in the season of ephphatha as we receive the invitation be open to God who is calling us to leave the crowd and save our souls. He has set before us an open door which nobody can close (Rev. 3:8). May continue to withdraw from the crowd and move closer to our Lord Jesus whose healing fingers would evangelize our ears and our mouths. Have a beautiful Sunday and a glorious week ahead.