23rd Sunday OTB

Is 35:4-7a       Jas 2:1-5      Mk 7:31-37

The new hearing aid: An elderly gentleman had serious hearing problems for a number of years. He went to the doctor and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed the gentleman to hear 100%. The elderly gentleman went back in a month to the doctor and the doctor said, “Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.” The gentleman replied, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. Consequently, I’ve changed my will three times!”

Today’s gospel describes how Jesus, by healing a deaf and mute man, fulfilled Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy, “Then will the eyes of the blind opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared.” Jesus shows his tender consideration for the weak by leading the dumb man away from the crowd so as not to embarrass him. The miracle is described in seven ritual-like steps: (1) Jesus leads the man away from the crowd (2) puts his fingers into the man’s ears (3) spits on his own fingers (4) touches the man’s tongue with the spittle (5) looks up to heaven (6) sighs (7) and speaks the healing command: “Ephphatha” (“be opened.”)

Why does Jesus carry out this elaborate ritual, while in other miracles he simply speaks a word or touches the individual? It is probably because the dumb man cannot hear Jesus’ voice or express his needs. People of that day believed that the spittle of holy men had curative properties. The early Church Fathers saw an indirect reference to baptism in the way Jesus healed the man. In baptism, the priest or deacon who baptized us touched our ears and mouths that we might hear the word of God and speak about Christ to others, sharing the “good news” with the poor, the imprisoned, the fearful, and the broken-hearted.

What we see is not simply the healing of a physical defect, but a concrete sign of the transforming power of God’s Love. The power of God’s Love is working in our lives to transform sorrow into joy, sickness into health, death into new life. The miracle is not only about the physical healing of person who was deaf and dumb. It also points to the opening of a person’s ears so that he may hear the word of God, and loosening of his tongue so that he may speak his profession of faith in Jesus. The miracle has great relevance to us, because a person can have perfect hearing, and yet not hear the word of God, have perfect speech, and yet be unable to make an act of faith.

Our modern secular culture, Religion and God are being evicted from schools, colleges, courtrooms, politics and public life. One cannot speak of virginity or marital fidelity without a contemptuous laugh from others. The unborn child with a precious soul is often considered a “mere nuisance” or “damn embryo” with no human rights. In today’s motion pictures, all religious gestures are either forbidden or relegated to the ignorant or superstitious. We are told that sixty-five percent of our Catholic youth have no formal religious education beyond the eighth grade. They are exposed to the culture of free sex, loose relationships, liquor, drugs and violence. No wonder, then, if they become deaf and blind to Christian ideals of morality, holiness in life and social justice.

May our Lord touch us through this Gospel so that we also can say “Ephphatha” (Be thou opened) to everything and everyone shut in or closed, to God and His loving providence.

{We need to allow Jesus to heal our spiritual deafness and muteness. We may find it hard to speak to God in prayer and harder still to hear Him speaking to us through the Bible and through the Church. This may be because many of us are satisfied with what we have learned in catechism class about the 7 sacraments, the 10 commandments of God, the 6 commandments of the Church and the 7 deadly sins. We don’t want to hear more about our faith through further study of the Bible or the teachings of the Church. It is not infrequent to meet Catholics who are highly qualified in their secular professions but are basically illiterate in their faith. Hence, let us imitate the dumb man in the gospel by seeking out Jesus, following him away from the crowd, and spending more of our time in coming to know him intimately as we study Holy Scripture and to experience him directly in our lives in personal prayer. Our growing awareness of the healing presence of Jesus in our lives will open our ears and loosen our tongues.}

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