‘Has not God chosen the poor of the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him?...” — Jas 2:5

In the Gospel of Mark, often, after Jesus heals, He tells those who were healed to stay quiet about the healing they received. This command was rarely if ever followed.

This is true in Sunday’s Gospel (Mk 7:31-37), as well. The Gospel passage states it explicitly: “He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.” Jesus asked for nothing to be said after He healed the deaf man who had a speech impediment.

The words of Jesus which brought about the healing go beyond physical healing to spiritual and emotional healing, as well: “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.’” Jesus not only opened the ears of the deaf man, He opened his mouth, which allowed him to proclaim to others that he was healed.

How do we know this? The fact we are telling others today about this healing. The deaf man must have told others, and those who witnessed the healing, as well.

The Aramaic word “ephphatha” refers to more than physical healing. Jesus opened the hearts of all those who witnessed the healing, in addition to the man who was healed: “They were exceedingly astonished, and they said, ‘He has done all things well.’”

St. Augustine tells us that the ultimate act of healing happens on the cross: “By His death, the one most true sacrifice offered on our behalf, He purged, abolished and extinguished whatever guilt we had.” When Jesus healed the deaf man, he groaned, for his groan was the pain and suffering Jesus Himself would suffer on the cross as He was bringing about a new creation.

Re-creation and healing happen for us all by Jesus extending His hands on the cross. The ephphatha prayer is said during the rite of baptism: “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the mute speak. May He soon touch your ears to receive His word, and your mouth to proclaim His faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father. Amen.”

With the pouring of water, anointing with oil and extending of hands over the baptized, we are re-created, and that which was lost in the garden at the first creation is made new in Jesus’ extending of His hands on the cross.

The people of Israel had to remain hopeful even as they suffered, especially in exile in Babylon.  They longed for restoration, and the words of the prophet Isaiah promised a future restoration. But, just as they expected an earthly king, they expected a physical healing.

They received a spiritual healing that brought about a new creation. “Thus says the Lord, ‘Be strong; do not fear! Here is your God. He comes with vindication, with divine recompense He comes to save you” (Is 35:4-7a).

Isaiah encourages Israel in exile to remain open to God, and not shut themselves off to divine healing. Similarly, the author of James encourages the early Church to be open and not discriminate against the poor, marginalized and impoverished. The second reading this Sunday is a homily by the author of James encouraging the Church to receive all people, no matter what their station in life or their background: rich or poor, slave or free, man or woman.

“Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters, did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:1-5).

The ephphatha prayer that Jesus makes is clearly about more than just physical healing. The author of James tells us to be open and not discriminate against the poor and destitute, but to receive all people with an openness of heart.

What we are healed from in our baptism is prejudice, anger and fear. We are healed, and the Lord opens our hearts to God’s eternal word — and, as Psalm 146 proclaims, we open our mouths and proclaim, “Praise the Lord, my soul!”

The ephphatha prayer of Jesus opens more than just the ears and mouth of those who need to be healed. It opens first our hearts so that we can accept Christ’s healing. Let your hearts be opened. Ephphatha!