Jesus Heals A Deaf Man,12th c. Byzantine Icon (recreation), Duvrovnik Cathedral, Croatia

Translation of the Holy Gospel According to Mark

At that time, Jesus going out to the coasts of Tyre, came by Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. And they bring to Him one deaf and dumb, and they besought Him that He would lay His hand upon him. And taking him from the multitude apart, He put His fingers into his ears, and spitting, He touched his tongue and looking up to heaven, He groaned and said to him: Ephpheta, that is, Be thou opened: and immediately his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke right. And He charged them that they should tell no man: but the more He charged them so much the more a great deal did they publish it; and so much the more did they wonder, saying: He hath done all things well; He hath made both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.

A Message From Pope Benedict XVI’s Liturgy of Vespers on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Jan. 25, 2007

Together, we meditated on the words of Mark’s Gospel that have just been proclaimed: He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak (Mark 7:37)…

The situations of racism, poverty, conflict, exploitation, sickness, and suffering in which [many in this world] find themselves because of the impossibility of being able to make themselves understood in their needs, gives rise in them to an acute need to hear the word of God and to speak courageously.

Is not being deaf and mute, that is, being unable either to listen or to speak, a sign of a lack of communion and a symptom of division? Division and the inability to communicate, a consequence of sin, are contrary to God’s plan. [This theme is] of great religious and political importance, because the ability “to speak” and “to listen” is an essential condition for building the civilization of love.

The words He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak are good news that proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God and the healing of the inability to communicate and of division. This message is rediscovered in all Jesus’ preaching and work. Wherever he went, whether travelling through villages, cities, or the countryside, the people laid the sick in the market places, and besought him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment; and as many as touched it were made well (Mark 6:56).

The Wards at Saint John’s Hospital, Johannes Beerblock, 18th c.

The healing of the deaf-mute… occurred while Jesus, having left the region of Tyre, was making his way to the Sea of Galilee through the so-called “Decapolis”, a multi-ethnic and multi-religious district (cf. Mark 7:31), an emblematic situation even in our day.

As elsewhere, in the Decapolis too, they presented a sick man to Jesus, a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment (moghìlalon), begging him to lay his hands upon him because they considered him a man of God.

Jesus took the man aside from the multitude and performed gestures that infer a salvific contact: he put his fingers into his ears, and touched the tongue of the sick man with his own saliva, then, looking up to Heaven, he commanded: Be opened!. He spoke this command in Aramaic (ephphatha), in all likelihood the language of the people present and of the deaf-mute himself. The Evangelist translated this term into Greek as (dianoìchtheti). The ears of the deaf man were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly (orthos).

Jesus exhorted them to say nothing about the miracle. But the more he exhorted them, the more zealously they proclaimed it (Mark 7:36). And the comment full of wonder of those who had been there recalls the preaching of Isaiah concerning the coming of the Messiah: He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak (Mark 7:37).

The first lesson we draw from this biblical episode, also recalled in the rite of Baptism, is that listening, in the Christian perspective, is a priority.

In this regard, Jesus says explicitly: Blessed … are those who hear the word of God and keep it (Luke 11:28). Indeed, to Martha worried about many things, he said that one thing is needful (Luke 10,42). And from the context, it becomes evident that this one thing is the obedient listening to the Word. Therefore, listening to the Word of God is a priority… Indeed, it is not we who act or who organize the unity of the Church. The Church does not make herself or live of herself, but from the creative Word that comes from the mouth of God.

To listen to the word of God together; to practice the lectio divina of the Bible, that is, reading linked with prayer; letting ourselves be amazed by the newness of the Word of God that never ages and is never depleted; overcoming our deafness to those words that do not correspond with our prejudices and our opinions; to listen and also to study, in the communion of believers of all ages; all these things constitute a path to be taken… as a response to listening to the Word.

Boldly Proclaiming Christ

Anyone who listens to the Word of God can and must speak and transmit it to others, to those who have never heard it, or who have forgotten it and buried under the thorny troubles and deceptions of the world (cf. Mat 13:22).

We must ask ourselves: have not we Christians become perhaps too silent? Do we not perhaps lack the courage to speak out and witness as did those who witnessed the healing of the deaf-mute in the Decapolis? Our world needs this witness; above all, it is waiting for the common testimony of Christians.