Mark 7: 31-37
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
In Mark’s Gospel we hear a story of the healing of a doubly afflicted man. He was a man who could not hear and who spoke with an impediment. Imperfection of mind and/or body was a sign, in Jesus time, of not being favored by God.
There are some who want to know what was really wrong with the man in the story: was he really deaf or did he just not hear well? Was his speech impediment caused by his deafness? If he could speak, was he really deaf?
We learn to speak as we hear. Children imitate the sounds of the words they hear as they learn language and begin to speak. How well they learn to speak depends on how well they hear words spoken by others.
As on other occasions, - people beg Jesus to lay hands on this doubly afflicted man to cure him – so all present can witness the miracle, - but Jesus does a curious thing – he takes the man aside - away from the others. In private, he touches inside the man’s ear and touches his tongue – very personal actions – far beyond the laying on of hands – Jesus makes an intimate connection with the man.
Jesus also spits, another curious action by today’s standards, but this action has meaning. In Middle Eastern culture, spitting was done to ward off evil and cast out demons. In spitting, Jesus frees the man of the evils that afflict his spirit. He not only heals the man’s body, but heals his spirit too.
All Jesus’ actions show something deeper has passed between Jesus and the man – more than a mere healing of his outward afflictions – Jesus makes a profound change in the man. The man receives Jesus’ Grace - a new level of understanding and wisdom - and he now, “Spoke plainly.”
We equate speaking plainly with speaking the truth – speaking in a way that is honest and open – where there are no hidden meanings, - no double talk, no spin.
This man, - who could not hear well and spoke in a broken way – now “Spoke Plainly” – He now proclaimed what he now heard clearly from Jesus – who had cried for him, “Ephphatha!,” “Be Open!”
In this, Jesus gave the man the understanding and wisdom - to speak plainly, - to speak the Truth. And in gaining understanding and wisdom, - the man received the Grace of - belief and faith. Cured in body and spirit - this man’s life was changed in a very profound way – beyond the healing of his hearing and speaking – his life was healed – his life took on new meaning – his life - was now a life of discipleship in Christ Jesus.
- · Do we let Jesus place his finger in our ear and touch our tongue, so we too may be healed to hear his Word and proclaim the Truth?
- · When we listen to the Word of God, Jesus, the Christ – do we hear his voice clearly and learn to speak as he speaks?
- · And in hearing, are we brought to understanding and wisdom through our close relationship with Christ?
- · In speaking – do we speak plainly – the Truth of the Gospel – the Word made Flesh?
- · Do we bring our brokenness: - our afflictions to the foot of the Cross; allowing Jesus to heal us in spirit and body; profoundly changing our lives?
- · Have we asked Jesus, in his love and mercy, to cast out the demons in our lives, so we may receive his gifts of Grace – belief and faith?
- · Are we true disciples – witnesses to the healing power of Jesus; proclaiming it to all the world?
- · Have we come to Jesus, so he can cry, “Ephphatha!” for us, so our lives “Be Open!” to His Grace and Love?"
Deacon Don Ron