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A Heart for Others
A Reflection on the Gospel of Mark 7:31-37
The Gospel Reading for the day can be found at https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/021023.cfm
Mental and physical exhaustion can really take a toll on relationships. I remember that, as a child, I could tell when my mother hit that wall. She would loudly proclaim that my brothers and I were getting on her last nerve. This meant, “stay away!” or at best, “provide a little space and make no demands.” She was exhausted! In these cases, God should give us a little flashing red light that warns all nearby, “danger!” It would probably help. Yet, for my mom, if we ever needed anything, last nerve or not, she would be there. True love always prevails. This is the way it is for our Lord. His heart is for others.
(Internet Image - “Jesus Heals Deaf Dumb Man N Catholic Picture Print - Etsy”)
The Gospel today tells the story of the healing of the deaf and mute man. St Mark begins oddly by first giving us a little bit of geographic context. He writes,
Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. (Mark 7:31 NABRE)
The route is very important context. When you look at the map, it is anything but direct. Jesus first walks north along the Mediterranean coast for about 20 to 24 miles from Tyre to go to Sidon. Then he heads southeast skirting mountains and the Sea of Galilee for about seventy to one hundred miles, if he went the most direct route, to eventually arrive in the district of the Decapolis, or ten cities.
It may be that St Mark is pointing out that the Lord and His disciples were exhausted. I recall walking the last leg of the Camino, only about 80 miles. Assisting at Mass five days later, on the evening we arrived in Compostela, I recall genuflecting before the altar of the Franciscan Church and wondering if we would be able to get back up. We were in such bad shape that a Religious Sister, who was serving as the Sacristan, gave a little smile as she heard the knees crack and the grunts made in unison as we all struggled to get to our feet in a very undignified manner. We were exhausted! We were on that proverbial, last nerve. Imagine how our Lord felt!
In the Gospel, despite likely mental and physical exhaustion, Jesus exhibits only patience with those who beg for healing. The Lord, with a heart of compassion and love, does not pronounce that He is in need of rest and recovery, on His last nerve, but on the contrary, He turns and heals. We read in the Gospel,
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. (Mark 7:32–35 NABRE)
Though we often turn to focus on self, true love never does. True love’s object is always the other. Jesus’ Sacred Heart, His love, is the strength to be there for this man no matter the circumstances. Deafness and a speech impediment often isolate and embarrass those afflicted. Perhaps for this reason, Jesus, despite personal exhaustion, takes the time to show a special person-to-person concern for this afflicted man. He shows us how deeply God cares for us individually, each and every soul. Jesus brings this man away, so that they are alone. Then, in a very personal way, our Lord with His hand and saliva, touches this man and heals him. Jesus even utters a special word as the first word this man would hear: “Ephphatha”—be opened! Be open to life, love, and faith. Have a heart open for others.
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The Lord shows us once more that love is gilded by the touch of personal sacrifice. This is the Sacred Heart of Jesus in action. This is the Heart of Jesus that we are also called to possess. But often, we too, need to also first hear the word, “Ephphatha”—be opened! Jesus is talking about more than our ears. He is telling us to step away from our own bodily concerns and open our hearts so that His grace and mercy may flow from us to all those who are spiritually deaf and mute, those in need of healing.
Today and every day, when physical or mental exhaustion set in, when you are on your last nerve, draw strength from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He is the door through which the eternal love of God is poured out on the world. Let us daily open wide our own hearts to God’s saving mercy so that we become both a recipient and channel of His grace and mercy into the world. Strengthened in this way, we are never on that last nerve but always open in love for those who beg for healing.
Lord, let our hearts be a conduit of grace and healing in the world. Give me some of the strength of your compassion so I will truly be your hands and eyes and heart!
“Jesus Heals Deaf Dumb Man N Catholic Picture Print - Etsy.” Www.etsy.com, www.etsy.com/listing/938501342/jesus-heals-deaf-dumb-man-n-catholic. Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.
New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.