February 13, 2015
Friday of week 5 in Ordinary Time
Jesus Opens Our Ears—And Our Eyes
Open our hearts, O Lord,
to listen to the words of your Son.
Jesus tells us the truth about ourselves. Is that something we really want?
Adam and Eve were happily naked—and not even conscious of it—before they sinned. When they had nothing to hide, they didn’t know the difference between naked and clothed, or between being open with others or closed. Neither do we, until we become afraid to reveal ourselves.
That happens pretty fast. We do something we are ashamed of. Or others make fun of us. Then we become afraid to say what we think, and even more to express our emotions. Fear suppresses expression; then human life—which, like the life of the Trinity, requires interaction and relationship—is bottled up in itself and stifled.
Sin is the source of separation. When Adam and Eve sinned, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves….” They were no longer free, open and spontaneous with each other. They were “clothed” in reserve.
Later when they heard the sound of God’s voice, “the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord.” We are not even honest in our dealings with God. We silence or engage in doubletalk with our conscience. And we steer away from reading or hearing God’s word, much less reflecting on it seriously, lest he challenge our values and undermine our complacency.
The result? Separation. Non-comprehension. Being on a different wavelength from God. Shallow relationship with Jesus. Self-exclusion from intimate knowledge of his mind and heart. Losing “the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18). We can’t refuse to talk and expect to be able to listen.
So the Responsorial Psalm has us pray: “Open our hearts, O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son.” Jesus can re-establish dialogue. That is in his role as Word of God.
The Gospel tells us about “a deaf man who had a speech impediment.” This was a physical condition, but meant as a symbol of spiritual refusal to listen or respond to God. Jesus took the man “off by himself away from the crowd.” Often we can’t hear God because we are listening to everyone around us—and not even listening to them reflectively or critically; we are just filling our heads with noise. We need to “withdraw,” “go away” with Jesus “to a deserted place all by ourselves and rest a while” (Mark 6:31; see Matthew 4:14; 14:13). If only for a few minutes each day.
Then Jesus “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!’” This is what Jesus has the power to do if we “go aside” with him. He can open our ears when we are afraid to listen, and loosen our tongue when we are reluctant to speak. He can do that because he is not just a human; he is the Word of God.
And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.
The Gospel doesn’t say it, but the man was restored to full relationship with others; to full communication. The separation brought about by sin—which separates us all from one another in some degree—can be overcome by Jesus the Savior. This is because he can free us from the sins that are the source of separation.
We have the courage to let Jesus show us our sins, because he can “take them away.” He is not just a counselor, much less a critic; he is the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” The Psalm says: Blessed is he whose fault is taken away…
We can even have this experience physically, in a human interaction with Jesus speaking in and through a priest in the confessional.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you, my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the Lord,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.
Oddly enough, the devil’s false promise to Adam and Eve, “You will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil,” is fulfilled for our good by Jesus. When we listen to him, and let his words enlighten us, then we “will know the truth, and the truth will make us free” (John 8:32). We will be free to reveal ourselves to others without fear, to be and express our true selves, to enter into authentic relationships. Then we can live “life to the full,” divine life, the life of the Trinity, which is a life of relationship based on communication between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. We will “be like God.”
Do I choose to let Jesus open my ears so that I might open myself to the world?
Pray: “Open our hearts, O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son.”
Practice: Reveal some of your deep thoughts and desires to a friend you can trust.
Discuss: How often do we talk about our deep religious feelings with others?