In this story we find clues about our understanding of sacrament. We are struck by the physical means used to heal the man, the use of spittle and touch. Jesus cannot tell the man verbally what He is about to do, so He uses a rough form of sign language to communicate His intentions. First, He sticks His fingers in the man’s ears to let him know that He is going to do something about his deafness. He spits on His finger and touches the man’s tongue to let him know that He is about to lubricate his speech. That’s gross, but it’s what Jesus does!
Nowadays babies often learn sign language before they speak … they signal when they are ready to nurse or take a bottle, YES, NO, MORE indicating that they comprehend long before they can articulate those concepts.
It would seem that here Jesus is attempting to awaken faith in this man’s heart. He is trying to help the man understand that something is about to happen in his life and that Jesus is the One who is going to bring about the changes.
After touching the man, Jesus looks toward Heaven. This act served two purposes. First, it told the deaf man where the healing was coming from.
Secondly, this act of looking toward Heaven also demonstrated Jesus’ dependence on the Father. Jesus often looked to Heaven for the help He needed. Jesus lived a life of close communion with his Father.
After looking toward Heaven, Jesus “sighed”. This word means “to groan”. The deaf man could not hear the sigh, but he could see Jesus when He did it and it spoke volumes to him. The sigh said “I care about you and what you are going through!”
Then, Jesus said one word, “Ephphatha”, which means “be opened”. When Jesus said this, the man’s ears were healed and his tongue was loosed. He could hear! He could speak! Oh, what a miracle! One command from Jesus and his life changed forever! That is the power of the Word of God!
Scripture tells us that the people were “astonished beyond measure” . What they saw Jesus do was more than their minds could comprehend. It left them with their mouths hanging open in amazement. They summed up what they felt about Jesus by saying, “He has done all things well!”
“All” is a mighty big word! It covers a lot of territory. He does all things well. Come to Him and let Him teach you the truth! He can fix it so you shake your head saying, “Well done! Well done! Very well done!”
In ancient Greece it was customary for peddlers who walked the streets with their wares to cry out, “What do you lack?” The idea was to arouse people’s curiosity and let, especially the housewives know they were in the vicinity. They would come drifting out to see what the peddler was selling this time… kinda like the Dollar Tree … what’s new today. It might be something they lacked and needed, or simply something they wanted.
What do you lack? We may have sight and hearing, but what do we lack? We do well this week to take an honest inventory of ourselves. Have you found contentment? Are you close enough to God to receive his guidance and strength? Have you secured peace of heart and peace of mind? Deciding what we lack is the first step in securing it. Only then can we express our needs to Christ. Remember what Fr. David said a couple weeks ago: God takes time answering prayers not because he does not know our needs but to give us time to recognize what our true needs are.
The man in Mark’s story lacked the physical ability to hear and speak. We, too, may lack the spiritual ability to hear. We suffer a kind of a spiritual deafness. The affliction of not really listening to people, or, to put it another way, the affliction of physically hearing what people say, yet failing to comprehend, to understand, and come to grips with the full meaning of the message. Remember the saying: what you are not saying is speaking so loud I cannot hear what you are saying.
One of the greatest weaknesses of the human heart is that we are very able to hear the cries of the poor but overlook their real needs. We can hear the cries of the hungry, broken people of the land across the sea, but miss the cues of the persons we live with.
This man, even though he was handicapped, had people around him that cared about him. They heard that Jesus was passing by and they brought their deaf friend to Jesus. Benedict calls us to the carry each other, to help one another understand the word of God spoken in community, to uphold the weak, challenge the faint-hearted, rouse us from sleep and open our eyes to the light that come from God – and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls out to us. … This is how, teaches St. Benedict, that we shall “progress in the way of life and faith, running on the path of God’s commands, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love… with the help of community “we will run, and not grow weary, with the inexpressible delight of love – if we do now what will profit us forever.”