“[Jesus] looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to [the deaf man], “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”).” (Mark 7:34)
There’s a wonderful picture that was taken last year in our school that shows me sitting with our preschoolers during a school assembly. Some of the older kids were singing and making or something and the preschoolers started putting their hands over their ears. I went and I sat with them on the floor and started doing the same thing.
When little kids are annoyed with noise, they just simply put their hands over their ears. For kids, it’s cute. For adults, it might be considered rude. Yet this is how we sometimes act when God is trying to speak to us. We place our hands over our ears like a little child. We don’t want to listen, we are unwilling to listen, and we don’t want to hear what he has to say because it can change our lives. The deaf man in today’s gospel didn’t have that option. He just simply couldn’t hear. Yet Jesus heals him, as he wants to heal us of our deafness and our speech impediments. We don’t listen to the Word of God. We don’t listen to his voice because it is drowned out by all the other voices in the world. Notice that Jesus takes the deaf man apart from the crowd to heal him. He needs to do the same with us. We need to go to a place of silence to listen.
But how does God speak to us? How will we recognize his voice? Well, he’s been speaking to you from the moment you walked into this church. He’s been speaking to you in a very special way when the Scripture readings were being proclaimed. And he is speaking to you now through a very unworthy servant. Are we listening? God speaks to us through Sacred Scripture, plain and simple. It is God’s Divine Word. The priest breaks open this Word for us during the homily. Yet the reason this Word sometimes falls on deaf ears is because we are not familiar with this Word. As Catholics, and I’ve said this before, we fall way behind our Protestant brothers and sisters when it comes to our knowledge of the Bible. We hear three readings from the Bible every Sunday. God is speaking to us in a very concrete way. So much treasure. So much wisdom. Are we listening? Do we know what to listen for? I know I’ve been asking a lot of questions but it all boils down to this one: How often do you read your Bible? Let’s not kid ourselves. Many of us know more about the lives of the Kardashians and other celebrities than we do about the heroes of the Bible and the lives of the saints. We need to open the Good Book and read some Good News. But again, do we want to hear it?
This past Friday, I celebrated the evening daily Mass in our chapel that is more often than not filled with good folks who do not practice their faith, yet come to Mass because it is being offered for a deceased relative. They are there, God bless them, out of a sense of obligation to their loved ones. On this particular day, we had a big group that had no idea what was going on in the Mass. We have a very small chapel, so I can tell the type of Catholic who is sitting in the pews fairly quickly. During the homily, I preached on the first reading that was taken from the first chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. It is a beautiful reading with great history and tradition. It is an ancient Christian hymn, and I proceeded to explain the reading and hopefully connect with some of our visitors. Now the worse thing someone can do during one of my homilies is ignore me. I know it sounds vain, but I am up there preaching the Word of God and pouring my heart out unto that pulpit so that everyone can connect to the Word. Yet there was a lady ignoring me. This caused me to get more animated in my preaching. There were two gentlemen in the back talking. This caused me to get louder in my preaching. So when I saw that I was getting a bit too long for a daily Mass homily, I wrapped things up by saying, “You know what, go home, open your Bibles, dust them off and read Colossians 1 and meditate on it.” People laughed at the dusting off part, but I was not being judgmental, I was also pointing the finger at me. Because of the advent of the iPad, I usually read the Bible, say my daily prayers, and prepare my homilies off an electronic device. My Bible is sitting on my bookshelf, you guessed it, collecting dust. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. There’s nothing wrong with reading the Word of God from iPads or computers, but sometimes we need to have the actual Book in our hands. Something that probably was blessed. Something that is holy. Something the Lord uses to speak to us.
We need to start reading the Word of God so that we can hear the voice of God so that we can share this Good News. If we’re deaf to the Word of God, if we don’t read our Bibles, then we can’t very well speak about it. Ephphatha! One last thing I would like to point out: towards the end of today’s gospel, when the people saw what Jesus had done with the deaf man, they said about Jesus: “He has done all things well.” This is a callback to the creation story in the Book of Genesis. Jesus is recreating the world and doing it well, just like the Father back in the beginning of the Bible when at the end of every day of creation he would look at what he had created and saw that it was “good.” Jesus wants to take you apart from the noise of the crowd like he did with the deaf man and open your ears and lead you to a place where you can hear Him more clearly. This way armed with God’s Word, you can go forth to the world and do “all things well.”