The Gospel for September 6th, 2015: The Healing of a Deaf Man
Mark 7: 31-37
Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. 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. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak.”
The Church cycles through gospel readings which provide for us the opportunity to revisit and reconsider their depth of meaning. I find it quite amazing—and at times frustrating—how even an apparently simply story like “The Healing of a Deaf Man” can challenge me to go deeper than I have previously. As I began reading through this gospel, I was comforted by the familiarity of Jesus healing the deaf man and began to think, ‘I got this. Jesus performed miracles as proof of His divinity. Pretty easy.’ But then I reached the line, “He ordered them not to tell anyone.” This was familiar too in a nagging way, like a raspberry seed you keep discovering lodged between your molars. This was an unresolved question I had wondered about before and never pursued. Why does Jesus order them not to tell anyone? It sounds like they don’t listen and He repeats this order more than once. It seems like He would want everyone to know of His miracles.
I was frustrated because I really didn’t want to do any “big R” research to understand this better. However, I did a Google search to see what is on the web. What I found, though not authoritative, made sense. More than one writer suggested Jesus’s caution is making the point that there is more to the story to know. He has not come to just heal, like a genie in a bottle who is ignored except when needed. If that is the message the witnesses take to others, their understanding of salvation would probably be very short-sighted. I felt better in reading this. Yet, even though this dislodged the seed, I could still feel it in my mouth. I realized it was time to see what the Church teaches on this; it was time to consult The Catechism of the Catholic Church. I find it difficult to read, and I was a little daunted.
I was pleased to find I could use the rather specific search term in Google, “why does Jesus so often say not tell others of his miracles Catholic view,” and the results led me to online versions of The Catechism at both the Vatican site and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops site at the section that provided a satisfying answer. Allow me to share the two statements I find most helpful from the section titled, “The Mysteries of Christ’s Life.”
Consider statement 516:
Christ’s whole earthly life—his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking—is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love… among us.”
His “deeds” are only one aspect of his mission, “… to do his Father’s will,” and His Father we “listen to him!” That means the whole message, not just the parts we like. We all welcome the healing for our woes in God’s love. However, Jesus’s Passion is at times harder to swallow.
Further consider statement 517:
Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross, but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life:
—already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;
—in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;
—in his word which purifies its hearers;
—in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”;
—and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.
If we are to share in Jesus’s redemption, we must share in “the blood of his cross.” We must be willing to accept the suffering that will come with God’s will in our lives, as Jesus did. We cannot skip over this part of Jesus’s message and expect eternal salvation. His ‘healings and exorcisms… “took our infirmities and bore our diseases;”’ taking away our sin and bringing us back into a relationship with God. But once returned, we must be willing surrender to God’s will to remain in Him. And sometimes it will feel like carrying a cross.
So it is not surprising Jesus admonished those witnesses of His miracles against drawing hasty conclusions. Likewise, it is important they we do not tell and live a gospel of convenience either. We must guard against treating Jesus as the genie in the bottle and shelving Him after He heals our ills. We must instead use those signs to strengthen us to do our part in carrying His cross so that we, like Mary and the saints, may be with Him through eternity, awash in His love.