The Offer of Grace; “Be Opened!”
A Reflection on the Gospel of Mark 7:31-37 – 9 February 2024
We Must Be Opened to Truly Hear!
We hear in the Gospel today Christ’s command, "Ephphatha!" “Be opened!” We read of a physical healing of a deaf man, but as in all of Christ’s healings, his foremost concern is to heal the soul, for the soul to “be opened!” It is no different with the healing of the deaf man and, perhaps more important, the spiritual deafness of those who accompanied him, and, by extension, us.
Consider the paralytic lowered through the roof in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 5:18–24). Jesus’ first act is to forgive the sins of the paralytic, the spiritual healing which immediately draws the ire of religious authorities who have become stunted, spiritually paralyzed, by their narrow and self-serving imposition of the Law on others. The paralytic’s physical healing results only as a physical proof of spiritual healing. Unfortunately, the religious leaders remain spiritual paralytics in their own stretchers.
The primacy of spiritual healing is something we must be attentive to in today’s Gospel and every story of healing. The spiritual healing is often refused. Consider the hardened resistance of the Jewish religious leaders. They need to be opened, but refuse.
In Jesus’ healing, there is always an offer of grace, a gift. It is either accepted or refused. In our lives, God never withholds grace. We accept it with joy or refuse it. We either hear the offer or we are deaf to it. Spiritual deafness is far worse than the physical form. It is deadly.
That command, Ephphatha (be opened), implies a breaking open of a channel that has become stopped up, impacted, and hardened. Think of something as common as ear wax. Too much ear wax in the ear canal can dry up over time, become impacted and hard. This obstruction can block sound waves from getting to the eardrum and is a very common reason for temporary hearing loss. Spiritual deafness has similar causes.
Like ear wax, sin and the distraction of the world can do the same thing to our ability to hear the Word of God, the offer of grace. Sin and distraction create a nearly impenetrable wall that we ourselves cannot break through. It takes a miracle from without to crack the hardened shell around our soul and allow us to be opened, ephphatha. The miracle is an offer of grace. We can neither receive nor accept an offer of grace unless the Word, Christ, somehow first penetrates the wall, the blocked channel. We must first hear!
Missio Dei is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Healing Grace Spills Over
The friends of the deaf man, in an act of amazing love bring the man forward to restore his physical hearing. Jesus takes the man and those with him away from the crowd, with all the distraction and hubbub of the world, to a “private” place. (Mark 7:33) There Jesus does something strange. First, He places his finger not just on, but in the man’s ears and then, spits and touches the man’s tongue. Finally comes the beautiful command, be opened! God’s finger penetrates the shell of sin and distraction and His divinity, saliva, heals our soul.
Notice that in the words of the Gospel there is a subtle shift between the very personal action of healing the deaf man and this healing having the same spiritual effect on everyone around him. We read in the Gospel that,
“immediately the man's ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone.” (Mark 7:35–36 NABRE)
He ordered, “them!” Grace always spills over. Jesus cures not just the spiritual and physical hearing loss of the deaf man but also the spiritual deafness of his friends such that they too hear the Word, truly listen, and then plainly speak of the Good News. Though our Lord asks them not to tell of the miracle, they can’t keep the good news to themselves, “exceedingly astonished … “they said, "He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak."” (Mark 7:37 NABRE)
The Gospel today calls us to be healed of spiritual deafness; to hear, truly listen, and then speak plainly of the Good News, the grace of the Word heard, received, and then proclaimed. The Word, Christ, blasts through every sin and distraction to enter our soul and bring it back to life. This is the offer of grace.
Today, pray for a healing from spiritual deafness, to remove the sin and distraction that drowns out God’s voice. Pray for and accept the offer of grace to hear, truly listen, and then plainly and joyously proclaim to anyone who will hear and listen, "[Christ] has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak." (Mark 7:37 NABRE)
Open our hearts, O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son. (Today’s Gospel Antiphon)
Patrick44. (2023, February 10). Seeking our ‘ephphatha’ moment - hubpages. Hubpages. https://discover.hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Seeking-Our-Ephphatha-Moment
The Roman Missal: Renewed by Decree of the Most Holy Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Promulgated by Authority of Pope Paul VI and Revised at the Direction of Pope John Paul II. Third Typical Edition. Washington D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.