God’s love is open to all, so that even the deaf may be able to hear his words and then proclaim aloud his deeds of healing and compassion.
Allow me just to dwell on the following observations on some interesting details in the Gospel-story of the healing of the deaf-mute man. From these observations, we can also bring out our reflections:
First, the healing happened in Tyre, a largely pagan territory north east of Ancient Israel, presently, a part of Lebanon. It is presumed that the deaf and mute is a non-Jew but Jesus, without commenting, opened his ears and made him speak. God’s love is open to all, so that even the deaf may be able to hear his words and then proclaim aloud his deeds of healing and compassion. We find in our second reading from James that he criticized the Christians, who discriminate against the poor who comes in their community prayers. The Gospel fittingly reminds this people that if Jesus embraces the Gentiles, then we should show no partiality for anyone but love them just the same.
Another detail is that Jesus did a lot of acts before healing the deaf and mute person. Greco-Roman stories of healing may include these elements. Jesus by doing these rituals somehow adapted himself to the culture of the people he was with: He took him off by himself away from the crowd; he put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue and looked up to heaven and groaned, and said, “Ephphatah!” (Be opened). I believe this also highlights the human touch and loving kindness of Jesus. He was very personal by taking the man off by himself. The blind man was considered special in spite of being also a pagan. He was not just one among the many who were sick but was treated with kindness. The human touch reminds us of the very act of the incarnation – God’s love made real in the person of Jesus. But, it was by the finger of God that Jesus healed the deaf and mute.
A final detail is the role of the nameless crowd, who brought the deaf and mute to Jesus. They too were pagans but they believed in the healing power of Jesus. They were courageous enough in the midst of unbelieving people to persist in their desire to help the deaf and mute to recover his hearing and speech. After the healing, they also announced the good news of Jesus’s loving kindness and healing, in spite of being warned not to do so. They even affirmed that “Jesus has done everything well”. The nameless crowd refers to the new Church who has heard loudly of God’s marvelous deeds and proclaimed with joy and fervor his healing words.
The deaf speaks about us, who do not want to listen to God’s challenging invitations and call to conversion and the mute in us, is our forgetfulness of God’s love and goodness in our midst. The deaf and mute in our Gospel must have been overwhelmed with joy. Hearing and speaking are primary senses for communication and being healed of such affliction is but happiness beyond measure. In today’s culture of an accelerated level of communication, how terrible it is to be deaf and mute.
Let us then ask God to heal us from spiritual deafness and dumbness. In most cases, we listen and speak only when it is convenient. We shut our ears out when something we hear is a truth that hurts. We close our mouth when the message we proclaim, even if it is true,will put us in danger. Let us therefore groan and pray, Ephphatah so that we may be open and free from fear that paralyzes. Let us open our hearts for all humanity and free ourselves from all kinds of discrimination and exclusion. Let us open our ears to hear and be overwhelmed by God’s superabundant love, so that like the deaf-mute and the crowd, who were astounded by God’s healing love, we may fearlessly and joyfully proclaim His word to all nations!