Israel’s prophets frequently used «deafness» as a provocative metaphor for speaking about the people’s obstinacy and resistance to their God. Israel «has ears to hear, but doesn’t hear» what God is saying to them. That’s why a prophet calls everyone to conversion with these words: «You who are deaf, listen and hear».
In this context, the curing of the deaf, narrated by the Gospel-writers, can be read as «stories of conversion» that invite us to allow ourselves to be healed by Jesus of deafness and hardness of heart that keep us from hearing his call to follow him. Concretely, Mark offers very suggestive hints in his story that work toward this conversion needed in our Christian communities.
- The deaf man lives far from everyone else. He doesn’t seem to be aware of his situation. He does nothing to draw near to the one who can heal him. Lucky for him, some friends take an interest in him and bring him to Jesus. That’s how the Christian community should be: a group of brothers and sisters who help each other mutually to live with Jesus, letting themselves be healed by him.
- The healing of deafness isn’t easy. Jesus takes the sick man with him, goes off to one side and focuses on him. This withdrawal and personal relationship is necessary. What is needed in our Christian groups is a climate that permits a more intimate and vital contact of believers with Jesus. Faith in Jesus is born and grows in such a relationship with him.
- Jesus intently works the sick man’s ears and tongue, but it’s not enough. The sick man needs to work with him. That’s why Jesus, after raising his eyes to heaven, looks for the Father to join forces with his healing work, he shouts out to the sick man the first word that anyone of us who are deaf to Jesus and to his Gospel needs to hear: «Be opened».
It’s urgent that we Christians today also hear this call from Jesus. These aren’t easy times for his Church. We’re being asked to act clearly and responsibly. It would be fatal for us today to be deaf to his call, to close our ears to his words of life, to not hear his Good News, to not grasp the signs of the times, to live enclosed in our deafness. Jesus’ healing power can cure us.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf