Evangelists carefully choose the miracles they narrate. They include Jesus' miracles in their works not to prove that He's God -- their readers already believe in His divinity -- but to demonstrate what kind of a God He is: how, as the risen Christ, He's working in the life of their communities.

That's why we should pay special attention whenever Jesus cures deaf and blind people. Jesus' earliest followers quickly discovered that one of the main ways He, as God, changed their lives was to open their eyes and ears to perceive things they'd never seen or heard before.

Reared in Judaism, Jesus' disciples frequently heard Isaiah's promise that Yahweh would one day visit His people in a special way, a way which would save them from a meaningless existence (Is 35: 4-7). They looked forward to the day when God becomes so deeply involved in their lives that "the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared,...the lame leap like a stag,...the tongue of the mute sing." Yahweh would remove anything which stops someone from living life to the fullest. And nothing stops us more than the limiting distinctions society imposes on us.


The historical Jesus' followers especially remembered Isaiah's words when they experienced His miracles. Many of these feats paralleled the freeing events they believe would accompany Yahweh's arrival. Yet, as I mentioned above, Mark is more concerned with the risen Jesus' actions in the community for which he writes than in the historical Jesus' actions in the presence of His original disciples (Mk 7: 31-37).

Though we see a primitiveness in Sunday's narrative that we rarely find in the later three Gospels -- finger in the ear, spit on the tongue -- the reading basically revolves around the Aramaic command, "Ephphatha!" This word reminds Mark's readers of Jesus' "opening presence" in their lives.

That's why it's good to have the passage from James as the second reading (Jas 2: 1-5). This blunt, plain-speaking author confronts those in his community who are guilty of a sin frequently overlooked in today's Church, a practice which some actually believe is part of Jesus' plan for His community. "Have you not made distinctions among yourselves," James asks, "and become judges with evil designs?"

James calls on his community to build and maintain an environment in which all are equal. These late-first-century Christians have yet to create clergy and laity, celebrants and non-celebrants, official rankings and titles, inferior and superior lifestyles. Most modern Christians have no idea with it's like to live in such a Church, especially when we gather to celebrate the Lord's Supper. Yet this is precisely the action James refers to when he speaks about "your assembly."


Shortly after Vatican II, Rome's Congregation for the Sacraments issued a directive to the world's bishops about the Eucharist. Among other points, the document warned Eucharistic presiders to make certain that there be "no distinction of persons" during the celebration; no one is to be singled out as being more important than anyone else.

Every Christian author believe that risen Jesus was opening the eyes and ears of all to see the value of each individual in the community, to discover His presence in everyone, especially those whom the spiritually blind and deaf would brush off as the 'poor in the world."

The members of the biblical communities had as many difficulties as we in breaking down the distinctions which abound because of our human nature. The only difference: They still believed it was Jesus' intention to destroy such barriers. They never blamed Him for creating them. (09-07-00)