Gospel Reflection for Friday, February 12th, 2021 — Mark 7:31-37
As the Willy Nelson song goes, Jesus is "On the Road Again." The Gospel of Mark is one of continual movement and action. Today He traveling from Tyre where we saw Him in dialog with a Gentile woman, who was begging for a miracle -- the scraps from the table, so-to-speak.
Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord. This is my prayer every time I read or hear today's Gospel story of a man who is deaf and unable to speak properly.
Jesus' travels throughout the region put him in the midst of a very diverse population, as we see that he is traveling into an area called the Decapolis. The Decapolis was a group of ten cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire. Saint Eusebius explains that the region included Hippose, Pella, Scythopolis, Philadelphia, Gerasa, Dion, Kanatha, Damascus, Raphana and Gadara (the site of the famous healing baths). Each of the ten cities included numerous smaller settlements and dominated trade routes. This presented Jesus and his disciples with an abundance of people, especially of the middle and lower classes, to which to expose to his teachings. Decapolis is also mentioned in Mark 5.20. This occurrence acts as a preliminary exposure for the people of the region; ‘So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.’ This verse similarly parallels the reaction of the people in Mark 7.37. It is interesting to remember that the places mentioned in Jesus’ journey were inhabited by a large number of Gentiles, especially Decapolis which was a nominally Gentile region.
The state of the disabled man in today's reading is interesting in its description. The inability to speak clearly does not necessary mean that the man is neither dumb nor mute; more so it could be caused by the man’s deafness. The term μογιλαλον is a rarely found word which only again occurs in Isaiah 35.6; ‘Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the mute shall sing; for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.’ This verse in Isaiah and its preceding verses suggest that the wording of Mark was referring to a much earlier tradition from the Old Testament in Isaiah 35. Μογιλαλον could also mean ‘stammerer’ which would attest the man’s inability to articulate due to his deafness.
In the days of Jesus, ailments such as deafness and muteness were often seen as either punishment for sin or possession by demons. Jesus’ ability to cure these ailments presents him as one who can forgive sin and overcome demons. This picture of Jesus would have been a powerful illustration of who Jesus was. This may account further for the secrecy at the end of the story in relation to Mark’s addition of the Messianic secret. The curing of the man highlights the identity of Jesus, so though the actual command for secrecy does not deal with the identity of Jesus as the Messiah, the miracle story as a whole attests to the fact
Did Jesus need to go through that whole ritual of touching this poor man’s ears and tongue and speaking the word of command? Certainly not. More than once Jesus performed miracles without any tangible contact with the beneficiary. What comes across in this encounter is God’s humility. Christ deigns to bring the healing power of God into this man’s life through symbolic gestures and visible signs. He continues using this tactic through the ministry of his Church: the sacraments (as well as many of the Church’s other ministries) are tangible connections between concrete individuals and divine grace. God made us to exist in the unity of body and soul, and he comes to save us in a way appropriate to that nature. We should be grateful for his patience and condescension, and we should be careful to imitate it as we try to bring Christ to those around us.
Lord, Just as Jesus healed the deaf man with the command "Ephphatha -- Be opened;" I pray that you will open my heart more fully to you. I what your Son in my life. I want to follow him through thick and thin. I pray that you'll clear out my ears so that I'll truly understand what your word instructs. Open my eyes Lord, enlighten my mind, so that I will discover your presence and your will in each moment, in every circumstance. You never cease to draw me to yourself; never let me stop seeking your face. Father, grant me the ability to discern truth from ever-present evil in our age. Help me to continue trusting in the consistent teachings handed down from the Apostles and Fathers of the Church, not being tossed too and fro by the ever-changing currents of public opinion.
Thank you for the sacraments, and thank you for the beauties of nature and culture. You show your patience and gentleness by speaking to me through these things, in ways that I can understand. Help me to take advantage of every moment in order to know and serve you better. In all my relationships, Lord, especially the ones most difficult for me, grant me the grace to be like you: patient, humble, generous, and forgiving.
GOSPEL -- Mark 7:31-37
Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”