Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B

Posté par diaconos le 1 septembre 2021

The healing of a deaf-mute

Ventitreesima domenica del Tempo Ordinario - Anno B dans articles en Italien sordomuto

# The miracles of Jesus are the supernatural events attributed to Jesus in the New Testament. The healing of the deaf-mute of Decapolis is a miracle attributed to Jesus Christ. It is mentioned in the Gospel of Mark and is part of the Sondergut of that book. This episode ends with the obligation of the « messianic secret ». Miracles are numerous in ancient Hebrew and Greco-Latin literature: inscriptions report miraculous healings at Epidaurus, the Greek sanctuary of the god of medicine Asclepius; the Romans had their healers such as Apollonius of Tyana, the Jews their thaumaturge rabbis such as Honi HaMe’aguel or Hanina ben Dossa.

For Daniel Marguerat, « it turned out that in the variety of their motifs and characters, these stories were like the endless variations of the same stereotyped genre, found in abundance in Greco-Roman culture. Signs and miracles were the « bargaining chips » of the charismatics, proof of their intimate relationship with God who granted them these powers, writes Paula Fredriksen. Flavius Josephus, as well as some of the closest rabbinic sources and the New Testament, preserves the memory of these individuals. A certain Eleazar cast out demons from the possessed; Hanina ben Dosa of Galilee healed at a distance″; historian Geza Vermes sees a « striking parallel » between this thaumaturgical power and that attributed to Jesus in the episode of the healing of an officer’s son, where Jesus is also supposed to act at a distance. « 

Other charismatics commanded nature : Honi, the circle-maker ( » Onias  » in Josephus), and his nephew Hanan had a reputation for bringing rain. [These rainmakers were aware of their privileged relationship with God: Hanan the rainmaker even prayed that his audience would distinguish between him and the one who actually granted the rain, the Abba [Father] of heaven. Miracles are, for the writers of the Gospels, signs of divine action that not everyone has perceived. The value of miracles as « signs », affirmed in the New Testament, is in line with the analysis of historians, for whom they are not an objective description of facts but a way of expressing a religious truth.

Daniel Marguerat points out in this sense « that the account of a miracle is a religious language known since Antiquity, and that it carries with it a much stronger ambition than recalling a marvellous fact of the past; this language lives to protest against evil « . Biblical scholars classify the miracles of Jesus in different categories. Gerd Theissen7 and Xavier Léon-Dufour8 identify thirty-three motifs that appear in the Gospel accounts of miracles.

From the Gospel according to Mark

31 Jesus left the territory of Tyre, passing through Sidon and heading toward the Sea of Galilee, and went into the territory of the Decapolis. 32 Some people brought him a deaf man who also had difficulty speaking, and they begged Jesus to lay his hand on him. 33 Jesus took him aside from the crowd, put his fingers in his ears, and touched his tongue with his saliva. 34 Then, looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, « Effata! « , that is, « Open up! « .

35 His ears were opened, his tongue was loosed, and he spoke correctly. 36 Then Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone; but the more he commanded, the more they proclaimed it. 37 They were amazed and said, « He has done all things well: he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak. » (Mk 7, 31-37)

Healing a deaf-mute

Jesus went out of the territory of Tyre and returned to the sea through the Decapolis. A deaf-mute was brought to him and they asked him to lay hands on him. Jesus drew him out of the crowd, touched his ears and tongue and, looking up to heaven, said with a sigh: « Ephphphata, open up! « The cripple was completely healed. Jesus forbade those present to recount this miracle, but the more he forbade it, the more they recounted it. And with great astonishment they cried out : « He has done everything well! ».

Jesus had advanced to the northern limits of Galilee, where the territory of Tyre began. Now, instead of immediately retracing his steps, he made a diversion even further north, through the territory of Sidon, to return to the Sea of Galilee, crossing Lebanon in the direction of Damascus and then crossing the Decapolis. Mark does not say why Jesus chose this route. During this long journey through the land of the Gentiles, he was able to talk continuously with his disciples.

The Decapolis (ten cities) was a large area beyond the Jordan, to the north-east of Galilee. Jesus had once approached this region; he had to withdraw at the request of the inhabitants, but he left a testimony of his power there: « Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their territory. While Jesus was getting back into the boat, the possessed man begged to be allowed to stay with him. He did not consent, but said to him, « Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord has done for you in his mercy ». (Mk 5, 17-19)

These people trusted Jesus, because they asked him to lay his hands on them. Only Mark relates this healing. Matthew. Matthew indicates that Jesus was surrounded by many sick people, among whom were deaf-mutes. Jesus, after spitting, put his fingers in the ears with saliva and touched the tongue of the mute. Usually Jesus healed with words alone. What could be his purpose in doing this ? Some thought that he wanted to compensate for what was lacking in the faith of the sick person; to encourage him by showing that he cared for him with interest.

Others suppose that he had in view the witnesses of the healing and adapted himself to their ideas about the efficacy of certain means, in order to prevent in them the superstition that could be attached to the miracle. Jesus did nothing in vain, but found these means necessary to perform some of his miracles. He was a kind of intermediary between him and the sick.

There was great solemnity in the performance of this miracle. Jesus, as he often did, lifted up his eyes to heaven, where his gaze sought all the light and power of God; he sighed, both as he raised his ardent prayer to God, and because of the pain he felt in taking upon himself our infirmities; finally he uttered the mighty word that restored to a wretch the use of hearing and speech: Ephphphatha! (Aramaic word) Figuratively speaking, the ears of the dumb man were closed, his tongue was tied, hence the words: his ears were opened, and (Greek) the tie of his tongue was loosed. This multitude, witnessing the miracle, obeyed their enthusiasm rather than Jesus’ orders.

Deacon Michel Houyoux

Links to other Christian websites

◊ Catholic Daily Readings : click here to read the paper  →  Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

◊ Father Hanly: click here to read the paper →      Homily for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

  Jesus Heals a Deaf and Mute Man

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