Today’s gospel [Mk 7:31-37] shows us Jesus teaching through miracles. The deaf man’s ears are opened so that he can hear the word of God and his speech impediment is removed so that he can proclaim the gospel message.
The writer of Mark tells us the people were astounded beyond measure.
‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak’ [Mk 7:37].
The ritual Jesus uses, that of putting his fingers in the afflicted man’s ears and of using his own saliva to release the man’s tongue and praying for God’s power to work, foreshadows an early rite of baptism where the priest touched the ears of the baptised and put saliva on the person’s tongue. It is the sacrament of baptism that brings us fully into the body of Christ, the church.
No matter how much Jesus tries to restrain the onlookers and the man himself from talking about this miracle in the gospel story, he cannot stop their excitement as they go around proclaiming the greatness of God.
How excited are we, these days, about Jesus and the model he has given us to live by? How much do we talk to each other about our relationship with Jesus and our joy in being part of God’s church with all its gifts for us?
This section of Mark’s gospel locates Jesus in a strongly gentile or non-Jewish area around the Sea of Galilee. This was a dangerous place for Jesus, a Jew, to be sticking his neck out. But for Jesus, it was more important that people be free from suffering so that they could live fully human lives that would allow them to praise God more completely.
This is why Jesus was constantly challenging the old order, the food and cleanliness laws of Judaism for example, that prevented so many from going into the temple. Access to clean water was a luxury for many people who were barred from the temple which required worshippers to wash before they prayed. At other times Jesus continued to cure people on the sabbath though critics challenged him for ‘working’ on a holy day.
For bucking the system, Jesus paid the ultimate price. The high priests and the Roman rulers saw Jesus as a threat because he attracted the crowds who then watched and heard him proclaiming a reign of God which they realised was greater than their own kingdom or church.
Social Justice Week
This week, the church focuses particularly on areas of injustice like those that Jesus challenged in his lifetime. Today is the beginning of Social Justice Week when Catholic social teaching is brought centre stage.
The church gives us many valuable insights into the way gospel values affect our daily lives. Pope Benedict’s encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, gives us a blueprint for loving our neighbour and how this can be reflected in the church’s work with, and on behalf of, the poor.
The second Vatican Council talked of ‘reading the signs of the times’ and the 1971 bishops’ synod statement Justice in the World, made it imperative that we do so. ‘Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world (is) constitutive to the preaching of the gospel.’ Like the deaf mute, we too are called to open our ears and eyes and look at what is happening around us and to do something about it.
What are our attitudes to wealth and poverty? Who do we regard as really rich and enriching? What kind of wealth are we in pursuit of? Are we totally free of discrimination in areas of sex, race, religion, class, occupation…?
Our answers to these questions will tell us how much we have really heard the word of God. They will also tell us how we communicate to others by our words, our actions and attitudes.
This year’s theme for Social Justice Week is environmental justice. We are called to look at the human effect on the ecology of our world.
Let us pray that our ears will be opened to God shouting at us through the news media about events that foster injustice in our society and in our world. Then let us take action, as a church, a parish, or a pastoral area, to speak out about these injustices and in their alleviation, to bring about the reign of God that was Jesus’ vision for us.
+ John A Dew