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Ordinary of the Mass
“Ephpheta—Be thou opened.”
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
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.
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.
Pope 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.