Date: Sunday, September 05, 2021
There are times when you can hear and feel sound. For example, when driving. a car comes close with sound amplified and blaring, you hear the noise/music, and you can feel the vibrations. In our Gospel today according to Mark, Jesus heals a deaf man with a speech impediment. Jesus takes him away from the crowd, puts his finger into the man’s ears, spitting touches his tongue, looking up to heaven, groans and says: “Ephphatha.” As Jesus looks up to heaven, he groans, that is, something deep within him is crying out even before a word is spoken. The deaf man feels the empathy of Jesus before, for the first time, he hears the words: “Be open.”
The crowd is amazed. Mark, the evangelist, retells the miracle drawing a parallel with the prophesy of Isaiah (1st Reading) that God will come with vindication and salvation when eyes of the blind are opened, ears of the deaf are cleared, the lame leap, the mute speak and deserts blossom. Mark, in placing the healing of the deaf man with a speech impediment at this point in the Gospel is contrasting him to the disciples, who can physically see, hear, and speak, yet are not able to comprehend that Jesus is the Messiah, the One God sent into the world.
Memory of this healing in the oral tradition and in the written text eventually becomes part of the ceremony of baptism, an optional rite, called “ephphatha.” The priests or deacon signs the ear of the baptized person and signs near the mouth and says: “Be open to receive, to proclaim and to live the Word of God.”
Are our eyes open to see the image of God in others? Do we see beneath the surface and recognize everyone as a human being with fears and hopes, in need of redemption, longing to be loved? Do we hear beneath so many people’s complaints or insults or bravado a person wanting to be heard and valued? Are our words, words of encouragement? Do we confess our faith and affirm the dignity of others often left out and belittled? Do people hear in our words, the empathy of Jesus?
There is a saying: “There is more than meets the eye.” It can be traced to the American poet, W. H. Auden, “There is always another story. There is more than meets the eye.” Or we may recognize the line of Gandalf about Frodo in Fellowship of the Rings: “There is more to this Hobbit than meets the eye.” That is true for all our senses. We pray to God to give us the grace to hear, to speak, and to see from our inner heart -- from God’s perspective.