In this story we find clues that promote our understanding of sacramental “laying on of hands” and the sacredness of human touch. We are struck by the physical means Jesus used to heal the man’s lack of hearing and speech, the use of spittle and touch – both discouraged in today’s “stay safe” world. 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 restore his speech. Might sound gross, but it’s what Jesus does! And, it awakens faith in this man’s heart.
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, the act of looking toward Heaven demonstrated Jesus’ dependence on his Father. As Jesus raised his eyes heavenward he “sighed.” Of course, the deaf man could not hear the sigh, but he could see Jesus’ expression. And, it spoke volumes more than words could say: “I care about you and what you are going through!” Jesus says one word, “Ephphatha” – “be opened.” When Jesus says this, the man’s hearing is healed and his tongue was loosened. He could hear! He could speak! What a miracle! One command from Jesus and his life changed forever! The witnesses declared: “He has done all things well!”
Today, this week we do well to take an honest inventory of our true needs. Have I found contentment? Am I close enough to God to receive guidance and strength? Have I secured peace of heart and mind? Deciding what we lack is the first step in securing it. Only then can we express our needs to Christ who has said: “Ask, you shall receive.” But, remember God-time may not match our unspoken expectation. When God takes time answering our prayers, it’s not because he didn’t hear us or doesn’t already know our needs. We are being given us the gift of time to recognize what our true needs are.
In by-gone days, peddlers would walk the streets with their wagon load of wares crying out, “What do you lack?” The idea was to let especially the housewives know that the peddler was in the vicinity. The kids and housekeepers would come drifting out to see what the peddler was selling today. Sounds like a flea market, or Big Lots or the Dollar Tree. How many shoppers drop in, (maybe we are counted among them?) nothing on their shopping list, but just to see what’s new today? It might be something we’ve forgotten we really need – for sure, it’ll likely be gone tomorrow.
When his friends presented the man in the Gospel to Jesus, his needs were obvious – he lacked physical abilities. We may lack spiritual abilities. We may suffer a kind of a spiritual deafness. The affliction of not really listening to people. Or, to put it another way, we suffer the affliction of physically hearing what people say, yet failing to comprehend and come to grips with the full meaning of their message. Remember the expression: “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 the inability to tune into people’s underlying needs. One may indeed lack food for the table, but his/her real need may be for a fair wage for an 8-hour job. We can hear the cries of broken, suffering people in lands across the sea, but be oblivious to the cues of the persons that every day are sitting right beside us.
This man in the Gospel, even though he was lacking hearing and speech, he had people around him that cared about him. They heard that Jesus was passing by and they brought their friend to Jesus. Benedict calls us to carry each other, to help one another understand the word of God spoken in community decision-making, to help us accept decisions that are contrary to our personal wishes. We are to uphold the weak, challenge the faint-hearted, rouse the sleepers, and open our eyes to the light that comes from God – and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls out to us. This is how St. Benedict teaches 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, he says “We will run, and not grow weary.” The closing words of our Gospel remind us that Jesus does all things well. “All” may only be a three-lettered word but it is a mighty big word! It covers a lot of territory. Jesus does all things well. Come to Him and let Him teach you the truth! He can fix it so you’ll shake your head saying, “Well done! Well done! Very well done!”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB
God, we know you have a lot “on your plate” – we ask, please, in Your goodness to hear our special intentions this week:
Remember in particular employees and employers and those seeking employment: may justice, fair wages and appreciation for service prevail at all levels.
We pray, too, for the victims, survivors and all who re-live September 11, 2001 … may they know peace of mind.
Remember, too, all the victims of so-called “natural” disasters: earthquakes, flooding, high winds and fire. God grant them strength and inspire generosity of all in positions to relieve their plight.