THE HEALING WORDS AND ACTIONS OF CHRIST
Healing of the Deaf Mute
23rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR B
WORDS … I don’t know if all people are aware of how powerful words truly are. The letter to the Hebrews says: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) But that is the Word of God for all of us. For men, however, oftentimes words are used to HURT rather than to HEAL. Do you remember those times when you said something to someone and regretted saying those words in the end? Well I do.
Sometime ago, my brother who is a priest, Fr. George, sent me a billing statement of the supplementary credit card I used while I was in the Philippines. Assuming that I have given him a lot whether monetary or in kind, I felt entitled to not paying him in full and so I said: “Brother, haven’t I given you enough? How could you charge me when all those years, I’ve given you at least a share of what I have! How could you be so ungrateful?” I felt good saying those words, though I know my brother was hurt. I can feel at the back of my mind that I shouldn’t have said those words in the first place. My brother, however, who has been so patient with me all those years simply said: “Brother, should I return all those clothes you gave me; or should I pay you up to the last centavo? If they’ve all been given by you, then I owe you nothing, right? I love you and that is all I can give.” Then he paused for a bit as he caught me dumbstruck and said: “What are you 11 years old?” I’m pretty sure, it was more than just regret I felt after that conversation.
WORDS … should we use words to HURT or should we rather use them to HEAL? This Sunday, we hear a very interesting story of one of Jesus’ works of healing. More than words, however, Jesus coupled His words with meaningful actions. A group of people brought to him a deaf-mute. Jesus, out of His power and authority healed him. The healing, however, was not as quick as his other miracles. This one was rather slow but meaningful. Let us try to recall and see what Jesus did:
First, “Jesus took him aside from the crowd to Himself.” (Mark 7:33) I believe that that is how God’s love in action works. Unless we are focused on Him, we cannot fully feel His almighty presence and healing. Coming close to Jesus in faith, we are sure to be healed. The problem with the modern world is that, people are afraid to even come close to Jesus. A lot of us DOUBT God’s capacity to heal. Doubting won’t lead us to healing but faith will. Now hear this story going on a different direction:
Three guys were fishing in a lake one day, when Jesus walked across the water and joined them in the boat. When the three astonished men had settled down enough to speak, the first guy asked humbly, "Jesus, I've suffered from back pain ever since I took shrapnel in the Vietnam War. Could you help me?" "Of course, my son," Jesus said. And, when he touched the man's back he felt relief for the first time in years.
The second guy who wore very thick glasses and had a hard time reading and driving, asked if Jesus could do anything about his poor eyesight. Jesus smiled, removed the man's glasses and tossed them into the lake. When they hit the water, the man's eyes cleared and he could see everything distinctly.
When Jesus turned to the third guy, the guy put his hands out defensively. "Don't touch me!" he cried. "I'm on a disability pension."
[Moral of the story? God cannot heal those who refuse to be healed. Healing entails getting out of our comfort zone and humbly “taking ourselves aside to Himself.” As it is said: “God helps those who help themselves” – “God heals those who present themselves for healing.]
Then what happens next? “Jesus put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva.” (Mark 7:33) This sounds a little gross don’t you think? Jesus probably did this since the man cannot hear Jesus’ voice or express his needs. In those days, they believed that the spittle of holy men had curative properties. And now, here comes Jesus’ compassion; his capacity to “suffer with” the person. In a sense, Jesus became a deaf-mute himself understanding his pain and suffering. In like manner, Jesus desires to give us his healing touch in order that He may be able to touch the lives of people through us like the Saints; he asks us to lend our hearts to those who need our care. Unless, we come to experience and understand the pain or suffering of another person, we cannot become a true and rightful healer.
Speaking of compassion, I was struck by what an 8-year old Illinois boy (Wyatt Erber) did recently. It was said in the news that upon winning 1,000 dollars from a bank scavenger hunt, he decided to give the money to his neighbor, to a two-year old girl, Cara, who was diagnosed with leukemia in May. Weeks after the bank’s scavenger hunt, Wyatt called Cara and offered the money for her chemo. Later, moved by Wyatt’s generosity, their neighbors with the help of the bank agreed to match his 1,000 dollars donation. See what a gesture of compassion and generosity could do to people.
Finally, before healing the deaf-mute, he said: “Ephphatah,” that is, “Be opened!” (Mark 7:34) In the end, Jesus showed us how powerful His words are and how He uses those words for HEALING and not for HURTING people. “Ephphatah” “Be opened!” What part of ourselves needs “opening?” The Gospel implies healing of interior illnesses: blindness to the needs of our neighbor, unwillingness to hear God’s voice and the inability to speak words of praise and gratitude. St. Mark reminds us in the Gospel that a true disciple of Christ is someone who reaches out to the helpless. Be Christ’s instruments to say Ephphatah! More than just words, let us be healers of interior illnesses following the footsteps of our model and principal healer, Jesus Christ.
My brother was indeed right. Everything we have is a gift from God and for that matter nobody owes us anything (I’m not talking about the credit bills here, that we have to pay!). If there’s one thing that we owe from each other, it is no other than our wholehearted service and compassion. The words of Christ are spirit and truth and its power is made manifest through faith. More importantly, they are made manifest through our minds and our wills to reach out to those who need healing. Let us be Christ’s mind and will as we freely present ourselves to become channels of His healing WORDS and ACTIONS.
Let St. Ignatius' Prayer be our prayer this Sunday:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.