When the first lockdown was imposed, our lives were disrupted suddenly in a way that none of us was prepared to stay indoors for long periods and not be able to socialise with others. In the isolation of our lives, I am sure many of us realised that hearing, speaking, and socialising with others are important essential qualities of a human person. Not being able to do any one of the three does not make us less human, but it surely does affect the quality of one’s life.
Since we are both relational and social, hearing, talking, and relating with others form part of our being. One can only imagine the suffering of that deaf and mute person that we read in the Gospel today. He not only suffers interiorly, but because he was not able to relate with others, he was also suffering from the negative judgment of the people around him.
This account of the healing of the deaf and mute person is one of the two miracle stories that are peculiar to the Gospel of Mark. There must have been a reason for Mark to include this story while the other Gospel writers did not. Just before this healing account, we read about the disciples’ inability to hear the words of Jesus and not being able to profess their faith in Him.
In the chapter after this account, we read of Simon Peter making the great profession of faith in Jesus as the Messiah. In some ways, the healing of this deaf and mute person shows not only personal healing but also that a transformation had taken place in the disciples of Jesus, who now have had their ears opened and their tongues released, so they can publicly profess their faith in Jesus.
“Please don’t pick me. Don’t pick me!” becomes the “prayer” of many people when there is even the slightest possibility of being invited to pray publicly. It has been my experience when in a group and if I were to utter the words, ‘Would anyone like to lead us in prayer?’, no one would dare raise their head or even make eye contact – all the while looking down at their feet.
I often wonder why is it that many people are afraid to pray in public? Are we embarrassed at praying out loud? We may be articulate in speaking about politics, sports, music, and many other topics in social conversations but there is often an awkward feeling of speaking to or about God in the presence of others.
The fear in many people is what if I say the wrong thing or what will others think of me if I make a mistake? The situation becomes more awkward if there’s a priest or senior church member present in the room. There is this sense of intimidation or fear of being judged that overwhelms people to address God or share some words from the Gospel in front of these “experts”.
The word ‘Ephphatha’ (Be opened) that Jesus says to the deaf and mute man must resound in our hearts today. More than before, the drums of our ears must reverberate with the words of Jesus and the ligaments of our tongues must proclaim the words of Jesus.
Just as God calls us to hear the gospel with open minds and hearts, we must also step forward willingly to speak that message through our lives, be it in prayer or a testimony. Let us remember what the priest says at a child’s baptism, “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.”
We are created to receive the Word and to proclaim it. The next time you hear the words, ‘would anyone like to lead us in prayer’ or ‘would anyone share what touched them hearing Scripture’, don’t look at your feet or let that awkward feeling overwhelm you. May we hear God saying to us “Ephphatha! Be opened.”
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (5 Sept 2021)