I work in the Deaf community and so today’s reading from Mark about Jesus healing the man who was Deaf and had a speech impediment always brings mixed reactions for me. I do not believe that Deaf people need to be healed of their inability to hear. I often wonder what happened when Jesus took him aside in private, away from the crowd. Did they have an insightful conversation about what he really needed healed? Perhaps it was that all the well-intended folks had hurt him with their inability to see his ability.
Regardless, Jesus by the end of it, says to the man as he sighs, Ephphthatha or be opened! The man can then hear and speak and all present say he has done everything well. Maybe there is a clue in the First Reading from Isaiah 35 that speaks about what this man, his companions and indeed, most of us need to be healed of: Be strong, do not fear! Many of us have fearful hearts and we wait for water to break forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. Our lives are closed to so much goodness because our hearts are filled with fright.
The Second Reading of James 2 also addresses this fearfulness of people who are different. We react differently when we see someone in fine clothes and shiny bling than when we encounter a beggar in dirty clothes. Our fear prevents us from seeing Christ within each of these people. Sometimes we may judge the rich person, even if we are more comfortable than with the street person. Again, I can hear Jesus sigh and say be opened!
We are all wonderfully and beautifully made just as we are. All of us are also in need of healing, of being opened, and of being less fearful. Often I see non-Deaf people be unsure of how to act around Deaf people. I started working with disabled people–young people in wheelchairs, with Down’s Syndrome, and with blindness–fairly early in life. I began volunteering in the Deaf community when I was 20. These two experiences made me less fearful of people who are different. That is not to say that I do not have fears or manage perfectly when I encounter people who are different than me but I may not be thinking it is really too bad that X cannot hear or Y cannot see or Z cannot walk. I tend to go to the place that X has a great sense of humour or Y is a compassionate soul or Z can be as mean as the rest of us sometimes. I try to see people for who they are….which is maybe why Jesus sighed and had lots to say to that Deaf man in private about what really needed to be healed. I am sure God had a different plan when creating people without a cookie cutter. Perhaps if we walk through a closed door we enter a beautiful place. Be opened indeed.
Who creates a fearful heart in you?
Where do you need to be more open with people who are different than you?
Jesus, help us to be more opened
to those who are not like us
to those who ignite within us
a fear-filled heart that lacks
compassion, mercy and love.
Jesus, heal us of our small-mindedness
and our hard-heartedness.
Keep us attentive to your sigh
so that we can live with greater welcome.