Be opened: Mark 7:31–37
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.
The man in today’s Gospel reading had a difficulty with his speech. This challenge went hand in hand with his other impairment, his deafness. He was unable to speak because he could not hear. Not hearing meant that he could not learn the sounds associated with language.
I am sure that he longed to speak properly; he longed to communicate with others; he longed to share his feelings, hopes, dreams and aspirations but he just couldn’t.
This encounter reminds me of the many persons that I’ve met over the years with whom I had to journey, who had an impediment of one kind or another. In many instances, I came to discover that these impediments were deeply rooted in other issues, other weaknesses or disorders that also needed to be dealt with in order for them to be truly free.
To help them I couldn’t just ask for healing for one issue, I had to ask for healing for the others as well. The deeper issues often took the form of unresolved trauma and pain that closed their heart, and froze many areas of their lives. They too needed to hear “Ephphatha”, “Be opened”.
I can think of the many young men whose capacity for meaningful and lasting relationships have been undermined by broken experiences in their families, where parents, especially fathers were absent, abusive, unfaithful and the list can go on.
These young men find it difficult to function in meaningful relationships and they are unable to love sincerely. They find it hard to communicate their feelings, to trust others, and make commitments because of the pain and trauma that unconsciously plague their lives.
I also think of the women who were victims of incest, rape and other forms of abuse, and now in their adult lives they struggle with loneliness, mistrust or being truly vulnerable in relationships.
All of us are like this man in some way. The challenges that others experience are rooted in many issues from our past. Many of our visible struggles are really symptoms of deeper issues. So, what can be done? How can persons experience healing in these complex situations?
“He took him off by himself away from the crowd”.
Very often we need someone like Jesus who pulls us aside and takes the time to minister to our impediments! These persons can be therapists, priests, friends or family members. They take the time to pull us away from the crowd to bring God’s love to us. Like Jesus, they show sensitivity, compassion, and they are able to go to the root of our impediments and truly be a balm of healing in our lives.
As Christians, we are called also to be this face of Jesus for others. We need to be able to create a quiet, confidential and judgement-free space where we are truly present to people; where we are able to help them to rediscover their ability to trust, to love and to be vulnerable so that they open themselves to the healing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ through us.
This way of being present to people also demands that we are willing to place our fingers in their ears, and touch their tongues. This means that we must be willing to share our selves with persons. We must be able to, be messed up by their mess, feel what they feel, share in their guilt and shame. In other words, we are called to get very close in order to help persons to heal —a willingness to smell like the sheep.
So, let us ask for the grace to go beyond the presenting issues that we experience to discover the deeper challenges that people have, and let us like Jesus, take them aside and place our fingers in their lives with a cry of “Ephaphatha”!
Lord Jesus, we bring to you all those who are hurting in our families, work places, schools and communities. Help us to be a compassionate presence to them. Use us to minister to the root causes of their “impediments”, and by Your grace may they come to a place of wholeness. In Your name we pray. Amen!
The Gospel Meditations for September are by Fr Raymond Francis, Assistant Parish Priest at Sangre Grande/Toco/Matelot and Coryal.