There are none quite so deaf as those who refuse to hear. If a person is not ready to hear what you have to share with them then they will never allow your words into their hearts. Jesus faced the same difficulties and challenges in proclaiming the Kingdom of God. If people are not ready to hear the gospel then it will fall on deaf ears. Even the Eternal Word can not penetrate the hardness of a heart that is closed off to conversion and new life. Before a person can receive the gospel and allow it to touch their hearts, the impediments to hearing must be removed. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus travels into Gentile territory in the area of the Decapolis (7,31-37). Before he can begin the work of proclaiming the gospel, he first must engage in the work of healing and opening the way for the Word to go forth and touch the hearts of the people. People bring to him a deaf man with a speech impediment. All of us at one time or another might have been that man. For varying reasons, we are not able to receive the Word of God into our lives and proclaim our faith. We are deaf and dumb in the ways of faith. What are the impediments in our life to hearing the gospel? What are our speech impediments that we can not speak clearly about our relationship with God? Perhaps it is some weakness or fear that keeps us from hearing and speaking about matters of faith. Isaiah proclaims, “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.” (Is 35,4ff)
n the gospel, Jesus takes this man off by himself, away from the crowd. The gospel gives us a strong indication of what will bring healing to this person and to all of us, and prepare the way for new life – a personal encounter with Jesus! Often the environment we live in, the groups we identify with and the world that surrounds us can be an impediment to our listening to the gospel message. Jesus takes this person away from the crowds and addresses him as an unique individual, called to new life. The personal encounter with Jesus prepares the way for this person to receive the Word and find new life.
The encounter with Jesus that we witness in the gospel is both personal and intimate. Jesus is fully present to this person. Jesus gives this man some one-on-one time and allows him to begin to experience his life in a new way. He is not just a part of mass humanity to the Father but is a unique individual that the Father cares for as one of his children. Jesus touches the man’s ears and proclaims, “Ephphatha!” – that is, “Be opened!” and the man’s ears are opened to hear and to receive the Word for the first time. The finger that Jesus places into the man’s ear is the “finger of God” that touches this person deep in his heart. These words are part of the baptism rite and prepare every newly baptized to receive the Word of God and proclaim it. In an incredibly intimate act, Jesus then places some of the moisture of his mouth onto the man’s tongue. In a sense, Jesus allows this man to taste eternal life from the “living water of life”. Now the desire for eternal life will always burn in this man’s heart. As the woman at the well in the gospel of John entreats Jesus, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” (Jn 4,15) There will be no more seeking to draw water from an empty well.
his personal and intimate encounter with Jesus prepares the person to hear the Word of God and to proclaim his faith. It opens for him new horizons of faith, hope and love – of unending life. This encounter removes all of the impediments from this person’s life to living a life of true discipleship. For the first time he tastes real freedom and joy! Now this person is free to proclaim the living gospel of new life in Christ, not only with his tongue but with his entire life.
Next! Jesus is waiting for each of us to respond to his call and experience an intimate and personal encounter with him in our life. This encounter will clear the way, remove the impediments in our lives and free us to experience new life. As it was in the prophet Isaiah, the desert of our lives will be changed into rich gardens bursting forth with new life from the springs of living water. For the first time, we will hear the Word of God, believe and truly live!