Homily for the twenty-third Sunday of the year - Year B - Mk. 7:31-37
Father Daniel Meynen
"Then Jesus returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him. And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, 'Ephphatha,' that is, 'Be opened.' And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, 'He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.' "
"Then Jesus returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him."
Jesus tirelessly continues his work of evangelization: he brings the Good News of Salvation! Already, he has multiplied the loaves and performed many miracles. In a short time, he will heed his compassion for the crowd and will once again multiply the loaves in order to feed all those who come to him to be filled with his Word of Life (cf. Mk. 8:1-9). Today, Jesus is asked to heal a man who is deaf and who cannot speak.
Jesus feels so much pity for this man, just as he does for all those who suffer from any infirmity! But in this case we have a man who is deaf, and thus who cannot hear his message, his Word of love and mercy! The Master comes to teach the men and women of the People of God, and he meets among them a man who cannot receive his teaching! What sadness this brings to Jesus! How sad this is for that man! But also, on the other hand, what a joy for us, for you and me who, I hope, enjoy the gift of hearing! Let us thank the Lord for all things: let us give thanks to God for all that he gave us, especially for the gift of being able to hear his Word!
"And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue."
Jesus absolutely wants to heal this deaf and dumb man. Jesus did not need to be asked at length: the ill from which this man suffers is well-known by the Savior of men who came to earth to overcome all the obstacles which could come in the way of the reign of his divine Word! But Jesus wants all this to take place away from the multitude. This is completely normal: the Word of God is not perceptible in the tumult of the crowd. On the contrary, this Word, even though it is almighty, ordinarily makes itself heard only in silence and meditation. "And taking him aside from the multitude privately."
Let us also try to withdraw ourselves from the crowd. There is a time for speaking, but there is also a time for silence. In particular, when we take part in the celebration of the Eucharist, let us respect the time set aside for silence here and there in the liturgy. The liturgy prescribes that the celebrant recite some prayers quietly, in particular at the offertory and before communion: this is a favorable time for the faithful to also pray in silence, in the depths of their heart. The grace of God can thus act quietly and open the heart of believers, just as Jesus, the grace of graces, opened the ear and released the tongue of the man who was deaf and dumb.
"And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, 'Ephphatha,' that is, 'Be opened.' And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spokeplainly."
A miracle! Yes, a miracle! Jesus pronounces this word: "Ephphatha", that is, "Be opened!", and at once, the man begins to hear and speak properly. Man, any man or woman, is destined not only to hear the Word of God, but he is also called by God to speak, to repeat the Word which he had heard for the first time spoken by the Son of God. Of course, the healing performed here by Jesus, even if it signifies several things, is first the sign of what the Lord will carry out in all the elect at the moment of his glorious return at the end of time. For it is then, on that supreme Day, that the Lord will give to each member of his Mystical Body the power and faculty to eternally proclaim his divine Word. Then, all those who belong to Christ will become, for all eternity, "praise of glory", according to an expression dear to Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity.
In the meantime, we can hear another Word of Jesus, the one he will soon pronounce in our presence through the intermediary of the celebrant who will say, in the name of Christ: "This is my Body", "This is my Blood". Let us be attentive! Let us not allow the opportunity to be healed by the omnipotence of the Word of God to pass us by! Let us carefully prepare ourselves to receive Jesus in his sacrament, for then, united with him in the Holy Spirit, we too will be able to become words of God in the unique Word!
"And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it."
Jesus does not want the miracle that he has just performed to become known there. What did he fear might happen if this miracle had become well-known? In fact, Jesus did not have anything to fear. Moreover, the crowd paid no attention to his injunctions: "The more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it." The reason for this is that there is a mystery here.
The man healed by Christ is, for us, a sign of the man to whom the Lord has given the faculty to hear and to proclaim the Word of God. So this is a sign of one who truly belongs to the elect of God in Christ. Now, the divine election of one person or another belongs only to God: it is God himself who chooses whomever he wants. Therefore no one but God may proclaim the miracle in question: men cannot take the place of God and decide who will be chosen and who will not be. "And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it."
"And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, 'He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.' "
It is quite true! The Lord does all things well! Even if God does allow certain evils to be done by men or nature, let us be certain that if we humbly ask him to remedy the problem that preoccupies us, he will certainly do so: "He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak!"
Let us ask Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who is also the Mother of the Church, to pray with us and for us every day of our life! Let us rest assured that we shall always be heard, for Mary has a good heart and good ears! Was she not the first to hear the Divine Word in her heart?