“Oh, I praise that mercy of yours which is beyond praising and I adore in thanksgiving your most loving kindness from the depths of my nothingness.” – St. Gertrude
Mark 7:31-37: Returning from the district of Tyre, he went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said. ‘He makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’
Christ the Lord Even though Jesus knew that reports of miracles and prodigious events would lead people to think of him merely as a wonder-worker and consider his Kingdom to be merely another earthly reign, he couldn’t resist the pleas of those who were suffering. He wanted more time to explain his vision, to convince people that the Kingdom of God went far beyond politics and economics, touching people’s hearts and bringing them back into communion with God. Thus he tried to get them to refrain from broadcasting his miracles, but to no avail. The more the crowds heard about his wondrous deeds, the less it seems they understood them. The miracles were meant to be signs, confirmations of the truth of his teachings, and invitations to trust and obey him. Unfortunately, although many people were willing to be cured by him, few were willing to suffer with him – that became clear at the time of his passion.
And yet, to be a citizen of his Kingdom means both enjoying his benefits and living under his rule – i.e., bringing thoughts, words, and actions into line with his standard and example. We really can’t have the latter without the former. Unfortunately, we often try to do just that: when the Lord gives, we rejoice; when the Lord asks us to give, we balk – much to his chagrin, and even more, to our loss.
Christ the Teacher We should never despair of the power of God. No soul is too hardened to be penetrated by Christ’s love and forgiveness; the greatest sinners often make the greatest saints. Though someone appears deaf to the Word of Life and unable to respond to the invitations of the Holy Spirit, our confidence must never be shaken, for Jesus “makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”
This applies even to the lives of believers. Often we seem to be stuck in our spiritual lives, unable to advance, incapable of overcoming certain defects or sinful habits. Sometimes this discourages us, and we slack off in our efforts to practice self-discipline and to live a vibrant life of prayer. That’s when the devil can make a bold move on us, luring us into a relationship or an activity that actually obstructs the flow of God’s grace in our lives. Precisely then, when we seem to have reached a spiritual plateau, we need to let Christ take us “away from the crowd” (perhaps on a retreat) to renew our interior hearing. His power is never lacking, but our faith oftentimes is.
Christ the Friend Did Jesus need to go through that whole ritual of touching this poor man’s ears and tongue and speaking the word of command? Certainly not. More than once Jesus performed miracles without any tangible contact with the beneficiary. What comes across in this encounter is God’s humility. Christ deigns to bring the healing power of God into this man’s life through symbolic gestures and visible signs. He continues using this tactic through the ministry of his Church: the sacraments (as well as many of the Church’s other ministries) are tangible connections between concrete individuals and divine grace. God made us to exist in the unity of body and soul, and he comes to save us in a way appropriate to that nature. We should be grateful for his patience and condescension, and we should be careful to imitate it as we try to bring Christ to those around us.
Christ in My Life I want to follow you through thick and thin, Lord. You are faithful, and you govern my life and the entire world with perfect wisdom. Open my eyes, enlighten my mind, so that I will discover your presence and your will in each moment, in every circumstance. You never cease to draw me to yourself; never let me stop seeking your face…
Sometimes the obstacles to making your Kingdom grow seem insurmountable, but in truth they never are. You made the deaf hear and the mute speak, Lord! You can give me all the grace I need to overcome every sinful habit and fulfill my mission in life. Make me a channel of your peace, Lord…
Thank you for the sacraments, and thank you for the beauties of nature and culture. You show your patience and gentleness by speaking to me through these things, in ways that I can understand. Help me to take advantage of every moment in order to know and serve you better. In all my relationships, Lord, especially the ones most difficult for me, grant me the grace to be like you: patient, humble, and generous…
PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.
Art for this post on Mark 7:31-37: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. Heilung des Taubstummen, Mk 7,31-37 (Healing of the Deaf-Mute, Mark 7:31-37), Author unknown Markus painter and assistant, 1425-30, PD-US author’s life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.