Imagine this man, deaf and mute from birth. He had never heard a human word. He had a speech impediment and was described as mute. He had never spoken a conversation with anyone.
Now the first words he hears in his entire life are the words of Jesus. And the first person he speaks to is Jesus.
I can’t help but think of a great contrast between us living today. How many human words do we hear every day? What do they mean? What is so important to be spoken? Yet, so many words.
However, when was the last time you spoke of Jesus outside of Church? When was the last time you used his Name when you were not in a church environment? Why do we have the gift of speech if we never say his name in everyday conversation?
I’ve noticed people become very uncomfortable if I use Jesus’ name outside of church. And I don’t hear Jesus’ name often outside of the parish. People are afraid of the name of God. People do not want you to speak His Name, or hear it in public. Why are we afraid to speak Jesus’ name in everyday conversation? Yet, this is one of the greatest evidences of the presence of the Devil in our daily culture. Satan uses fear to paralyze us and control us. This fear makes us become both deaf and mute. When we can neither say nor hear His Name in everyday discourse, then this diabolic fear makes us deaf and mute, even more than someone pathologically, physically deaf and mute.
In the eighth century before Jesus’ birth, God sent the prophet Isaiah to Israel. He foretold the destruction of Israel by the Assyrians. Then he promised a future salvation. Isaiah taught about Emmanuel, “God with us”. He foretold the salvation of the Messiah. Isaiah said,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Isaiah foresaw today’s Gospel and prepared us to hear it. Jesus is returning from a visit to a pagan location, Tyre and Sidon, today in Lebanon to the Sea of Galillee, near Capernaum.
… people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.
Jesus then took the man aside.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
“Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
The Gospel author, St. Mark, directs his audience from the beginning of his Gospel to show Jesus is the Son of God. St. Mark and the Jewish people were familiar with the prophet Isaiah. St. Mark referred back to the prophecy, saying the people responded, regarding Jesus,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
If we agree with St. Mark that Jesus is the Son of God, why would we fear to proclaim him openly, say His Name and listen to others use his name. Yet we fear his name. This coming week I challenge you to say His Name. Talk about him outside of church. And, observe how fear of His Name makes you and others more deaf and mute than the man in the Gospel. Then, remember, “Be not afraid”. Be not afraid to repeat his words to yourself in prayer,
Ephphata! – Be Opened!
Do not be afraid.