5 September 2021: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time


Be Opened”   “He Has Done All Things Well”

In the First Reading we heard the words of the Lord as recorded by Isaiah the prophet:  “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf be cleared; then shall the lame leap like a stag, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”   In the healing of the deaf and mute man we see a very specific fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.  Only Mark records Jesus Christ’s healing of the deaf-mute man.  The salvation Christ brings means total healing, in both body and soul, for all who trust in him. 

The first thing we notice in today’s miracle story is that “the people brought to Him a deaf man with a speech impediment and begged Him to lay His hands on him.”  The man did not come by himself and made the request, it was the people.  Those who presented the man to Christ were involved in a work everyone should emulate, that is, leading people to Christ as the solution to their needs. This work involves compassion and sacrifice.  We must have compassion for people needing help.   We may not be able to help them or to heal them but we can bring them to Christ, by our words, by our deeds, by our prayers, and above all by leading a good Christian life..  That is the mission of every disciple of Jesus. 

Let us look a little more into the story.  How do we speak to a deaf man?  Not with words because he cannot hear.  With sign language!  You make the appropriate gestures and actions to communicate the message you want to convey. And so, that is what Jesus does to communicate with the deaf man who is brought to him. He uses sign language to get his message across to the man before he heals him.

The first thing Jesus does is to take the man off to the side, apart from the midst of the crowd. Jesus wants his full attention, no distractions. He begins to speak to the deaf man, not audibly, but by means of a series of actions and gestures.  Jesus puts his fingers into the man’s ears. “Your ears are deaf –but I’m going to heal them” is the message Jesus is sending by this action, a sign of great hope to the deaf man.

The next thing Jesus does is to . . . spit?  Spitting may seem very strange to us, but that’s what Jesus does. “After spitting,” it says, Jesus “touched his tongue.” Now our text doesn’t say exactly where Jesus spat. He may have just spat onto the ground or even on his own fingers.   With this action Jesus conveys the message   “Not just your ears; I’m also going to deal with your mouth.   It also gives an additional message:  what comes out of my mouth, namely, my word–that is what is going to loose your tongue.” A powerful message indeed!

What comes next in Jesus’ sign language? “And looking up to heaven, he sighed.”  Two things here. He looked up to heaven. Jesus wants the man to look to God in faith for this healing. And Jesus wants the man to understand that the power Jesus is going to use to heal him comes from God, comes from heaven. Even more so, that Jesus himself is the divine, heaven-sent man of mercy, sent to heal all our ills. Do you realize that, can you read that sign?

“And looking up to heaven, he sighed.” Again, Jesus wants the man to lay his needs before God in an attitude of supplication and prayer. And that is what we do.   We come before God with all our hurts, all our ailments and afflictions, all our sins and sorrows, our frustration and our exhaustion, and we lay that bag of misery before God with the sigh of faith. “Lord, have mercy” is our prayer. In his rich mercy, our heavenly Father hears our sighs and supplications, and he answers in the way that is best for us.

After putting his fingers into the man’s ears, after touching his tongue, after looking up to heaven and sighing, now Jesus is ready to speak and to do his mighty work. Jesus is ready to speak, and it is one powerful word in Aramaic,  “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened.” When Jesus speaks, things happen. His words are powerful and active.  And so the man’s ears are opened–his tongue, too. Now he can hear, now he can speak. And the people  were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well”.   Today’s story is sending us the message that God has mercy on human misery, and that Jesus is always ready to heal us.

Therefore let us pray:

Lord Jesus, you made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. Lord we stand before you for your healing touch.  Lord touch our ears and open them so that we may hear and understand the Word of God in the Bible, listen to every word you speak to us in the silence of our hearts, listen to the real meaning and joy of life, to listen to the needs of other people and become messengers of your great love and compassion.  Lord, touch on our tongues so that we may always profess our faith to the praise and glory of God the Father, to speak truth, and to proclaim all the good things the Lord has done in our lives. Amen.

God bless you!