“Be opened, Be healed!”
Fr. Leonard Oakes
September 9, 2012
A story was told of an elderly gentleman who 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!”
In a very relative story, I visited one of our members at a care home last Friday. I remember before she moved to her new place, she was wearing a speaker aid for her hearing. I would speak through that speaker whenever I talk to her. Last Friday, at the new home, she told me that her family moved her to this new place because she doesn’t get the care she needed at that former home. She’s lonely and felt deprived. But most especially she hears her caregivers say bad words to her thinking that she can’t hear them. Too bad, they lost a very wonderful woman who cared for the rest of the residents.
The Gospel today talks about the miracle and gift of hearing, and there is no miracle which so beautifully shows Jesus’ way of treating people than that of the Gospel’s. When he came into the district of the Decapolis in the region of Galilee, they brought him a man who was deaf and who had impediment in his speech. Jesus shows his tender consideration for the weak by leading the deaf man away from the crowd so as not to embarrass him and I think that is the tenderest considerateness a person can do to another. Jesus knows that deaf folks are always embarrassed. A deaf person knows he cannot hear; and when someone in a crowd shouts at him and tries to make him hear, in his excitement he becomes all the more helpless.
Have you ever experienced a time when someone is nodding to what you’re saying with a big smile only to find out that he is partially deaf and that he doesn’t want to be embarrassed so he pretends he understood what you’re saying? Jesus must have seen that from this man and he showed the most tender consideration for the feelings of a man for whom life was very difficult.
The Gospel story shows us most vividly that Jesus did not consider the man merely a case; he considered him as a person with a special need and a special problem, and with the most tender considerateness Jesus dealt with him in a way that spared his feelings and in a way that he could understand.
First, Jesus leads the man away from the crowd then puts his fingers into the man’s ears; spits on his own fingers; touches the man’s tongue with the spittle; looks up to heaven; sighs and speaks the healing command: “Ephphatha” (“be opened.”)
We may ask, 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 deaf 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 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 speechless. 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.
Have you ever heard the famous poetic song of Paul Simon and Garfunkel, “Sound of Silence?” It says, “People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening, people writing songs that voices never share, and no one dared, disturbed the sound of silence.” The song speaks about a vision of our gifts that are supposed to be shared, voiced out rather than hidden and swallowed by the sound of silence.
A group of men came to me one time saying, Fr. Leonard, we wish our wives could just say their prepared sermons intended for us be delivered to you then we will just listen to you instead. We are becoming deaf the way they treat us. Your voice is more soothing to the ears. That’s another form of becoming deaf and one must consider that there is a concern being brought to one’s attention.
On another occasion, a woman came to me saying, “Fr. Leonard, I thought women talks more than men, but boy, my husband talks like some women, his voice reduces my ability to hear. Please talk to him.”
Whatever form of impediment one has, it is hard to communicate when you are not being understood. Jesus recognized the predicaments of the deaf and mute so he touched them with compassion and dignity.
Do you believe when I say to you this morning, we have our own deafness and muteness in life? When I say to you, God has been calling you to do something for this Church by stepping up to initiate your leadership in your own gift and capacity, would you realize it?
God is calling each one of us to have faith and believe in yourself and “be opened” “Ephphatha” to reach out to others and share the gift God has given you, In Church, at home, at work and wherever you may be. 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 preoccupied with other things and Church is just a secondary. We only need to be with God when we are in trouble or in need. No, we need to come together as a community to praise and thank God for everything that we are enjoying. There are many ways to express your sincerity to God. Look around, listen, what is it that you can bring before God that may please Him. Speak out and don’t hold your peace. let us imitate the deaf 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.
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. May it be our prayer to say, “Lord Grant us to live the rest of our lives the best of life.” Amen.