top of page

IHS Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost—25 August AD 2019 Ave Maria!

“Ephpheta—Be opened”[1]

Support our Building Fund

When we read the Gospel accounts of our Lord healing people, we recognize, of course, that these were real people upon whom our Lord had compassion. There really was a man born blind, a woman with a hemorrhage, another with a fever, a man with a withered hand, and there really was a man who was deaf and dumb. The evangelists record these cures, both as evidence of our Lord's concern for His people, and to demonstrate that the Son of God had power over sin, sickness, and death.

But there is also an urge to read some symbolism into each of these Gospel accounts. We ask ourselves if there wasn't some reason why this man we encounter today was deaf and dumb. Did the Gospel writer, perhaps, pick out this particular miracle because he felt the malady itself was significant? Of course, we will never really know, but there is room for a little speculation.

We might look at deafness and dumbness from the standpoint of human relations. In a way, the two maladies symbolize the two great faults that most of have in dealing with each other. Perhaps we are just as deaf and dumb as the man in today's Gospel.

Deafness is an easy fault to recognize in other people. We have all had that experience of trying to carefully explain something to another person, only to recognize from their conversation, or the look in their eye, that they are not paying any attention to what we think is so important. It is easy to recognize this sort of deafness in others; harder to recognize it in ourselves—but, very likely we do exactly the same thing on occasion.

Dumbness is another such fault. Oh, we all have plenty say to one another—that's not usually a problem. But often enough we are not very careful about what we say or how we say it. Our words can be very cutting, even to the point of damaging long term relations. And even if we are careful about being critical with others, many of us forget to say those words of encouragement and praise that people need to hear.

God expects us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. So this is one of those things that should be in our prayers now and then: “Lord, free me from my deafness and my dumbness with other people; help me to be understanding of them, and help me to say things to them that are helpful and encouraging.”

We can also speculate that the Gospel writer was inspired to include this particular account because we suffer, as well, from a spiritual deafness and dumbness.

As baptized Christians we all have the virtue of Faith in some measure. Faith enables us to believe the things that God has revealed to us. But sometimes we are a little deaf in hearing that revelation; too many folks don't make much of an effort to know much about what God has revealed. And just as we are prone to speak to our neighbor without listening, we are also prone to speak to God in the same way.

Perhaps we read our prayers out of a book, or perhaps they are the fruit of reflection; we may tell God that we love Him, and that we thank Him, and that we are sorry for our sins. But all too often we end our prayer when we are finished, and don't pause to listen for anything that God might be trying to say in return.

And, likewise, there is a spiritual dumbness. The greatest fault, of course, is in neglecting to pray at all. I am afraid that in some folks, the spiritual dumbness is total and complete. But in others it is partial; prayer consists mostly of asking for things. That's okay in itself, but it is incomplete, for prayer ought to contain adoration, and thanksgiving, and sorrow for sin as well.

Pope Saint Gregory the Great suggests that the fingers our Lord placed in the ears of this man represent the Holy Ghost.[2] He refers to several other Gospel passages in which our Lord speaks variously of “casting out devils by the finger of God,” and of “casting out devils by the Spirit of God.” Now, whatever you think of this reasoning, it does leave us with a perfectly logical course of action.

All of us are a bit humanly and spiritually deaf and dumb. And we know that our Lord is willing to cure all those who bring their sins before Him. Saint Gregory is saying that we must bring our deafness and dumbness before the Lord and ask Him to increase in us the gifts of the Holy Ghost. He is saying that the cure for our deafness can only be in the Wisdom and Understanding and Knowledge, in the Counsel and Fortitude and Piety and Fear of the Lord that come only from the Holy Ghost.

Gregory is saying, as it were, that we must come before the Lord and entreat Him that our deafness and dumbness be healed; that He will say the word “Ephpheta” so that we may listen and speak correctly before God and men.


[1] Gospel: Mark vii: 3I-37

[2] An Homily of Pope Saint Gregory the Great: Homily x Book i on Ezekiel. Lesson vii-ix

bottom of page