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. Jesus gave his saliva and mingled it with this man’s saliva. With such human contact and co-mingling, the man was not only healed, but divinized, made like God through his participation in the healing of Jesus. This graphic encounter is also a microcosm 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 and this has only been hightened by the pandemic. But we also suffer from not being able to hear God’s word, and when we do, we are more often than not mute to speaking his word. Jesus, may or may not provide a healing or a solution to a trial or struggle we may have or are right now going through. In either case though, Jesus is present and accompanies us.
Jesus invites us to consciously resist the temptation to avoid our suffering, pain, conflicts, or challenges and instead 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.
As St. Mother Teresa has taught: “Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember, pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus – a sign that you have come so close to him that he can kiss you.”
Jesus still heals today, just as he healed the deaf and mute man. Jesus is just as intimately present with us as he was with the man he healed. Jesus does not leave us forsaken nor alone in our suffering and pain. Jesus accompanies us, he kisses us such that, our ears are opened to hear his word, our tongue loosened to speak his word, and our hearts expanded to love one another as Jesus has loved us. We love in a deeper way when we resist turning in on ourselves and instead lift up our suffering, our trials, our pain for the needs of others for their healing.
We can do this best by resisting to run away from our pain and instead entering into it. When we do so, Jesus meets us with his arms wide open to receive all that we offer and makes our suffering redemptive. In participating in the practice of redemptive suffering, we align ourselves in a deeper way with Jesus, we draw closer to him who gave his life on the Cross, and we participate in the divine loving embrace of the Holy Trinity. Embracing Jesus in our suffering can be a means of sharing his Father’s grace and the love of the Holy Spirit with a wounded and hurting world.
Photo: Icon of Jesus healing the deaf man who could not speak.