Those who witnessed Jesus healing the man who was deaf with a speech impediment grasped something more than just the healing when they stated: “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (Mk 7:37). With these words they are acknowledging the deliverance of Israel by the Lord, promised by the prophet Isaiah, when he mentioned how, “the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf will be cleared” (Isaiah 35:5).
The beauty of this healing may be missed by us in the modern age because of the graphic nature of the details used by Mark. Jesus places his fingers in the man’s ears, spits into his own hands and then touches the man’s tongue. Jesus is mixing his own saliva with this man in need of healing. We don’t even share drinks from the same container anymore like we used to when we were kids!
Jesus is showing the intimacy of communion that he offers us. He gave this man the very essence of his own being that it would be mingled with this man. This is a physical teaching, an image or icon, of how the Son of God, in no way diminishing the fullness of his divinity, entered into the very real corporality of our humanity. He became one with us so that we can become one with him. This was true then and it is still true for us today!
We all suffer with physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual trials. But we also suffer from not being able to hear God’s word, and so are mute in speaking his word. Jesus, even if he does not provide a healing or an immediate solution to a trial, though he may, is present in our lives. We are invited to consciously resist the temptation to avoid our suffering, pain, or challenges that face us and instead are invited to deal with and enter into them. We are not expected to do this alone, but to bring our need for healing to Jesus. In this way we are aligning our suffering with his on the Cross. While at the same time when we also choose to offer up our pain and suffering on behalf of another, we participate in redemptive suffering. Others can experience relief and healing from our sacrifice in participation with Jesus.
This act of the will gives meaning to our suffering such that we do not endure what we are going through in vain. May we embrace, head on, that which is presented before us, actualizing the guidance of Jesus as well as the advances of modern medicine, science, and psychology, embracing a posture that engages both faith and reason. Our approach will be best if we are more mindful and balanced with our discernment. Just masking struggles without dealing with the root cause will only prolong and possibly worsen the condition.
Jesus still heals today and does so most powerfully when we beg him to lay his hand on us like the deaf man in today’s Gospel account. In this way, we too can hear his word, speak his word, and love one another. Jesus also heals others through us. With ears open to the hear God, we become more open to hearing the needs of others. May we make the time to be present to one another and to listen and hear one another. What greater gift of healing, of love can we give to another than to acknowledge that we have heard them and they have experienced that they have been heard?
Painting: Jesus heals the deaf man – by James Tissot