In today’s gospel reading, Jesus heals a man who is deaf and who has a speech impediment. At the most literal level, Jesus desires to heal all that ails us. We read in the first reading from Isaiah that we are not to be afraid, because God always desires to heal and to create new life. Where there is confusion, there will be clarity. Where there is limit, there will be leaping. Where there is desert, God will rain down the water so that the land can flourish and be fruitful again. So God reassures us and says, don’t be afraid!
When Jesus comes to the person who is deaf and has a speech impediment, he touches him, and says, “be opened.” At a metaphorical level, these are significant words for us, too. It is God’s healing power that saves us, but we also participate in that process of our own healing and of the world’s healing. How do we participate? First, we have to be open. The person who was deaf not only had his “ears” opened again, but also was vulnerable with Jesus even by showing up. Generally, human beings do not want to show their weaknesses and need, yet all of us have them because we are human. Do we open up ourselves to God and to others, or remain closed? The first reading’s reminder that God’s way is to heal and to generously create new life gives us courage to be open and even vulnerable.
Jesus also touches the deaf man as he heals him. He puts his fingers into his ears and even uses his own spit to heal. These bodily images made me think of being a parent to a young child. When we are a mother or father to a little baby or toddler, we think nothing of cleaning up their drool, spit up, and tend to the blood that comes from their scrapes. We change the diapers of babies. We wipe their dripping noses when they have colds. Being a mom or dad involves a lot of physical care. And there is nothing off putting about any of the snot or spit, because of the natural closeness between mom or dad and baby. We don’t even give a second thought to it, because there is such beauty in the physicality of care in general (rocking a baby to sleep, nursing or feeding, playing), and because of our tender love for our child.
There is something of this in how Jesus is with those whom he heals, too: a kind of loving tenderness that doesn’t balk at all at the real human condition. Jesus takes it all in stride and sees what is beautiful in us more than our limits. Jesus invites us also to allow him to touch us, to enter into all that is human in us, and also to have the same kind of loving care for what is human in others. When we know that God loves and touches us tenderly, then we can also be open to God and to others.
Jesus invites, “be open.” We can be open to where God speaks to us and to where God touches our hearts. If we are, then we will find that where we once felt unable to speak, we will speak healing words. Where we once did not listen, we will really hear the sound of Love and take it to heart.