A TOUCHING ENCOUNTER!
What love, what respect, what consideration, what faith on the part of those who brought to Jesus the deaf man with the speech impediment! They believed He could heal this man.
Nowadays we speak of people being challenged- challenged to think and act positively within the limitations of their own situation. Within my own circle of family and friends, in my visiting schools, hospitals and special homes, I have been deeply moved by the loving respect, the supportive, encouraging acceptance that has been shown to those who are in any way challenged – allowing them their own space to be themselves, ‘do’ for themselves and fulfil themselves.
We all know that sadly this is not always the case. I don’t want to dwell on this now, nor do I wish to rush into reading something spiritual or symbolic into Jesus healing the deaf man with the impediment in his speech.
Rather, I welcome the opportunity to record my admiration for teenagers who talk about their future careers and tell me they wish to become professionally involved in teaching physically, emotionally, spiritually challenged children and adults or in caring for the elderly. Here is a call, a vocation, to a lifetime of expressing love in a very practical way. Such care-givers are most surely signs of the Kingdom of God being present here and now before our very eyes. They are sacraments of the compassionate, healing ministry of Jesus vividly present in our midst.
The Gospel of today tells us that Jesus “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 that, “And his ears were opened, and at once the impediment of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly.” Those who witnessed this were filled with admiration. “He has done all things well,” they said, as they saw this to be not only an act of power but also as one of love.
From the early days of Christianity the Church has seen this healing by Jesus as a pointer towards the spiritual healing, character shaping, that takes place shortly after a person has been baptized.
In the Rite of Baptism it is stated that,
‘The celebrant touches the ears and mouth of the child with his thumb, saying, “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.”
In this age of highly sophisticated communication technology is accessible even to small children. I would like to suggest that this simple rite of blessing of the ears and mouth is of immense importance and relevance.
The ears represent our ability to receive sounds and images that are liable to influence the way we think, feel and act. Our mouths represent the ability to ‘put out messages’ that have an impact on the lives of others. Our intake and output of ‘media matter’ will frequently be for better or for worse- morally, spiritually. We must question what we are doing to ourselves through our media intake; what we are doing to others through our media output. In both cases it could be a lot of good or it could be a lot of harm.
The choice is ours. It is a moral, spiritual choice. We may be inclined, enticed or tempted to imbibe material which is spiritually ‘unfit for human consumption.’ At baptism the ears are blessed that we may choose to receive the ‘godly word’ and reject the ungodly one. Our mouths are blessed that we may communicate to others godly words that are truthful, charitable and inspiring and resist the temptation to lie, mislead, and talk nastily about others.
God knows, even if we don’t, how much we all need healing and restraining in the wonderful, awful world, of inter-personal and mass-communication! What a challenge we have to take this seriously and encourage others to do so!
Readings: Isaiah 35:4-7|James 2:1-5|Mark 7:31-37