Again, Jesus set out: from the country of Tyre he passed through Sidon and, skirting the sea of Galilee, he came to the territory of Decapolis. There a deaf man, who also had difficulty in speaking, was brought to him. They asked Jesus to lay his hand upon him.
Jesus took him apart from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears, and touched his tongue with spittle. Then, looking up to heaven, he said with a deep sigh,
And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly. Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about it, but the more he insisted, the more they proclaimed it. The people were completely astonished and said,
He has done all things well; he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.
The beautiful song in Handel’s Messiah from Is 35:5-6 about “the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped” and “the tongue of the dumb shall sing” reverberates in today’s gospel. Although this is a story of physical healing, the deeper significance of the event must not be lost on us. When Jesus heals, he invites us to go beyond the physical and into the spiritual. Jesus’ first action before he healed the deaf-mute is significant. It describes a three-stage movement from the physical realm to the spiritual: he (1) “took” the man (2) “apart,” leading him to a private space, away (3) “from the crowd.” It was in a quiet space where the deaf-mute gave his full attention on Jesus that the healing occurred. When we approach Jesus in our need, he leads us first to a space of solitude where we are less distracted and able to communicate with him as we are. “Ephphatha, be opened!” With ears unplugged, Jesus invites us to listen not only with our ears but also with our hearts to God’s dream for us. With tongues loosened, we are able to sing with our entire being our desires and deep longings for God.
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