A shortened homily today because of a witness talk being given by our teens, on behalf of those preparing for Confirmation.
To those of us with good hearing and the ability to speak clearly, today’s Gospel seems like just a nice story. Jesus takes the deaf man who had a speech impediment, and touches him and cures him. The first word the man ever hears is the miraculous word, Ephatha, or “be opened.” This opens a whole new world to this man who had been shut out because he could not hear or speak. And even though Jesus urges everyone to be silent about the miracle, there is no way to stop the cured man from singing praise and telling the whole story.
But, as my teachers used to say when I was little, there are two kinds of deafness. There’s the kind we just heard about in the Gospel, and then there is the deafness of those who refuse to hear. If we’re honest, there’s probably a little of that kind of deafness in all of us. There are all sorts of things we refuse to hear, or just don’t want to hear about. We may refuse to hear the needs of those closest to us, preferring to remain in the deafness of our own selfishness. Or we may choose not to hear the voices of those who are poor, those who are victims of wars and all kinds of injustice, those who are unjustly deprived of their freedoms. In this case, we prefer to remain in the deafness of our own self-righteousness.
Just as there are two kinds of deafness, so there are also two kinds of muteness. Some may be like the man in the Gospel, who have difficulties with everyday speech. Or perhaps we live in our own kind of muteness: a muteness that will not speak to teach the faith our children, preferring to leave that to the professionals. Or maybe it’s a muteness that will not speak out on behalf of those suffering from all kinds of injustice, preferring to leave that to the government.
An honest look at ourselves can reveal all kinds of deafness and muteness in us. To all of that, may we hear the words of Christ speak clearly to us today: Ephatha – be opened! May the deafness of our selfishness and self-righteousness be turned into the joy of hearing everything with clarity. May the muteness of our fear be turned into the freedom to speak out so that all might know the Gospel. That Ephatha word of healing was intended for us every bit as much as the man in today’s Gospel reading. May we today hear that word and be healed by it.