On the Gospel of Mark 7:31-37
23rd Sunday of the Year
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus heals a man who is deaf and mute. If we seek to apply the Gospel to our own lives, we should perhaps consider the ways in which we are deaf and mute.
Consider, for example, the fact that despite more efficient tools of communication, the depth of our communication has declined. We can communicate instantly by means of social media or mobile phones, but such instant contact by means of screens and buttons can’t really sustain serious conversation about the important things in life. How often, for example, have relationships been damaged by misunderstood text messages? It’s difficult to really listen to what someone is saying if they are not physically present to us. And even when we are in face-to-face conversations, our voices are usually in competition with other sounds, from radios, TVs and so on. The art of listening closely to the words of another is in decline: deafness results.
How about the art of speaking to another? Try turning on one of the popular soap operas. You will be met by a barrage of hateful speech: shouting, rumours, lies. If you read an online article or watch a video online, pay attention to the comments underneath: almost invariably, the ‘comboxes’ will be full of anger, opposition, and even hatred. The anonymity of the internet provides an opportunity for the distortion of speech. All this is outside us, but nevertheless has a subtle influence on us, nudging us away from the virtuous use of language. We come to know all well that ‘the tongue is a fire’ (James 3:6).
So, like the deaf and mute man in the Gospel, our hearing and our speech needs healing. Like him, we need Jesus to put his hand on our ears and say ‘Ephphatha… Be opened’. We need him to touch our tongue, to loosen it up for speech that builds others up, to enable us to ‘speak clearly’, and with integrity. Even in our world of instant communication, we need this healing, so let us turn to the one ‘who makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak’.
Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
– Mark 7:31-37