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
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
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.
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.
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.