a biblical reflection, based on Mark 7:31-37, for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, September 6, 2015
Jesus heals “a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech.”
I see much in this story…
About Jesus’ compassion. Taking the man “aside in private,” apart from the intruding eyes of the curious crowd, lessening the possibility of embarrassment. Placing his fingers in the man’s ears, touching the man’s tongue – symbolically speaking an intelligible language that the man might understand.
About the story’s setting. The Decapolis, the region of Ten Towns. A Greek territory. This miracle taking place there signifies that Jesus’ proclamation of God’s kingdom, the realm, the life of God’s justice and compassion is inclusive, meant for all, both Jew and Gentile.
Still, I offer an ostensibly simple observation. Hearing and speaking – in whatever form, significant, primary, necessary aspects of the act, the art of communication – are hard to do.
It’s not easy to hear another person so to understand what is said and, even more, what is meant. Each of us – with family histories and heritages, overarching worldviews and daily working assumptions, aptitudes and interests – perceive and process information distinctly individually. (And given how hard it can be for us to know ourselves, understanding another always is more difficult.)
Yet how often have I, particularly at a time of need when I sought help, marveled that my counselor, pastor, or therapist, family member or friend “simply listened”, and then, if speaking, uttered (not necessarily a profound, but) an unmistakably compassionate word.
Hearing another, speaking to another, understanding and remaining unthreatened as another pours out soul-deep anguish, being secure and unafraid in the face of another’s grave spiritual or emotional need, I believe, all require, demand reverence for the Creator, respect for human nature, and rootedness in one’s own being.
I confess that when I am afraid of my inner self and shadows or caught, trapped in the grip of my needs I cannot welcome and embrace another with much intention and grace. I cannot hear with care or speak with compassion. I become a deaf man with a speech impediment; one whose need for healing is great.
Sometimes I experience the healing voice and touch of Jesus coming through my remembrance (truly my re-remembrance) that my life isn’t all about me, but involves abiding connections with others. That recognition calls me to turn from myself as the center of my universe and to open up again to others around me. Most often, however, my healing comes through a tender, enabling word spoken or an outstretched, embracing hand offered in love; that word, that touch of ephphatha! unlocking my fearful, hardened heart.
Illustration: Christ healing the deaf mute of Decapolis, by Bartholomeus Breenbergh, 1635