In this Sunday’s gospel passage (Mk. 7:31-37) there are three “movements” worthy of reflecting upon. This passage tells the good news of how Jesus cured the deaf man with the speech impediment and it is worthy to note how our Lord heals the man.
The first movement is that Jesus takes the man away by himself. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. Jesus welcomes this poor man. He teaches by way of action what James is later to write in his letter (James 2:1-5); …show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. It is certainly true that God shows no preference between people but we see throughout Scripture that the heart of God leans in a special way toward the poor and the weak.
Jesus welcomes this man and he takes him off to the side as if to stress the need of a personal relation and encounter with Christ as the foundation of any true healing. Miracles, it has been noted, “occur in the realm of a deep friendship and trust in God.” It is true that God respects our freedom enough to not force his love on us but it is also equally true that the respect must go both ways. Neither God nor his love is a genie to be summoned on command by our whims and needs. The love and grace of God and the miracles of God in life are dependent (to a considerable extent) upon our friendship with and trust in God.
Jesus then, following ancient custom, puts his finger in the man’s ears and then (with saliva) touches the man’s tongue. These are the second and third movements respectively.
Jesus touches the man’s ears. Each person needs to be “open” to hearing the Word of God. In our distracted world we need to learn how to cultivate the art of listening, especially listening for the Word of God as it comes to us. This art implies the willingness to live with an open heart and a humble and receptive spirit. I think in times past we could almost coast on this because times and circumstances lent themselves to the art of listening. I do not think we can say this anymore. There are too many distractions. We must be intentional about creating in our lives and in our world environments (even pockets) of quiet in order that the discipline of listening and real encounter with another can be developed and grow. This certainly applies to our faith life and our relationship with Christ.
(At this point, I want to take an aside and point to two things beginning this week at the Catholic Center that relate here. The first is Monday morning prayer on campus which will be held every Monday at 7:15 a.m. Each month we will explore a different prayer form together. The second is Wednesday Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which our Graduate Student/Young Adult group is organizing which will be held every Wednesday from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. These are both moments to just listen and to be with the Lord.)
Jesus touches the man’s tongue, looks up to heaven, groans and says, Ephphatha! or “Be opened!”. And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. In the fact that we are told that the man was able to speak plainly we can see that the miracle proclaimed in this passage concerns not just the restoration of speech but really the ability to speak correctly. Words carry great power. We find this throughout Scripture from the very beginning in the creation account where we are told that God spoke and it came to be to John’s reflection of Jesus being the Logos or Word of the Father. Our words can participate in the very creativity of God or they can be misused in order to harm, to do evil and to create nothing but division.
For our words to be purified, for them to participate in the very creativity of God and not be malicious nor deceitful then we must first of all (as noted above) listen to the Word of God. Our words can do great good but they can also do great harm.
Three movements: truly encountering and living in friendship with Christ, listening to the Word of God and learning to speak correctly.