Before serving on a panel for a recent forum on the sexual abuse reports from Pennsylvania, I begged for the Holy Spirit to open my ears to hear—to understand—each person. I prayed for the Spirit to touch my tongue before uttering a word in response. I prayed as person after person approached the microphone to tell her story, to express his frustration, or to speak her mind. Hopefully, each person felt heard and respected by the community. If there has ever been a time for opened ears and touched tongues—for understanding and compassion—a time for healing, this is it.
This Sunday’s Gospel features Jesus’ encounter with the “deaf man who had a speech impediment.” Jesus responds to this man with compassion by taking him “off by himself away from the crowd” to perform this miracle. “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!’)” Touched by Jesus, the deaf man’s life opens to communication—to relationship. If we steal away with Jesus, He will open our ears to listen deeply and touch our tongues to speak with compassion.
“Be opened!” Opened ears seek to understand the other: the refugee requesting asylum in the United States; the woman suffering from domestic violence; the man of a different race struggling to make a living; the victim of sexual abuse. The Gospel calls us to “Be opened” to hear the voice of each man, woman, or child and then respond with compassion and justice.
For many of us, opened ears and touched tongues are most needed in our own homes. Due to a progressive disease, my husband’s voice has weakened. Often when he speaks, there’s barely a whisper. With my hearing loss, communication proves challenging. Our conversations easily tailspin into, “What?” “What did you say?” “What?” Exasperated, I’m tempted throw up my arms. I then know my need to pray for Jesus to open my ears to understand and for my tongue to speak with patience.
As parents/grandparents, we often experience the challenge of children unable or unwilling to speak. We long to understand the baby crying in the middle of the night: Does she have an earache? A nightmare? We plea to understand the toddler screaming, unable to use her words: What does she want? Why won’t she obey? We are desperate to understand the teenager who falls silent: Is he depressed? Is she being bullied? Is he taking drugs? We pray for opened ears to understand our children and for touched tongues to respond with wisdom.
We name grace—God’s healing presence—when we teach our children to shut off devices and steal away from the crowd to listen to Jesus in His Word. We name grace by guiding our children to understand others—especially those without a voice—and to invite them into a friendship or school community.
As we continue to grapple with the horror of the recent reports of abuse, we listen to prophet Isaiah: “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.” Jesus continues to heal us through the Eucharist as we gather around the table praying for opened ears and touched tongues. Now, that’s good news.
How do your ears need to “be opened” by Jesus?
How will you teach your children to understand others?
Thanks for taking time to read this reflection! Please feel free to leave a comment and always feel free to contact Mary Pedersen of Naming Grace in the Domestic Church at email@example.com.
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.