What is it about Jesus spitting, putting his fingers in the deaf man’s ear? It hits on something within us, pulls on something. Some inner notion of cleanliness, of boundaries, of unworthiness. It’s uncomfortable. Unusual. Certainly not how we would expect the God-man to act. Now – to bow at his feet, to stand at a reverent distance, to wash our hands before we shake his, that is more comfortable. But the God-man putting his fingers in someone’s ears? Touching his tongue? That seems scandalous. Something within us wants to reject that.
What is that about? “...it has to do with the human life. The Lord didn’t just say a prayer and say “Ephphatha!” and say ‘be healed.’ He used part of himself, part of what he was, physically, and healed that person’s life.”*
It is not only somewhat scandalous, but entirely scandalous. The scandal of the cross, they say. It’s more comfortable for us to relate to a God who is far away and who judges us by how clean our collar is, who enforces laws and keeps tabs. We know how to manage that kind of God. But a God who comes down into the mess of human life – and in doing so, absolutely redeems us, and lifts us up into the divine – that is much harder to grasp, much harder to accept. We don’t know how to manage that kind of God-man.
What is behind that? “...it has to do with the human life. The Lord didn’t just say a prayer and say “Ephphatha!” and say ‘be healed.’ He used part of himself, part of what he was, physically, and healed that person’s life. The process of conversion. Having a spiritual life is very human.”*
The process of conversion…conversion! Conversion does not mean I have achieved obeying all the laws exteriorly. Conversion means soaking in and living from this inner knowledge – “Having a spiritual life is very human.”* It means I allow God to open my heart – “Be opened!” Jesus said. I allow Jesus to open my heart and soul, and to flow into the reality of my corporal, human life. Conversion means being open to mercy. Mercy within us, mercy towards ourselves, and mercy towards others.
How dearly we long for this mercy – and yet how fiercely we often resist it. What is behind our resistance? How pervasive this longing must be…how desperate are we, how desperate is the world for mercy, that all across the world our Holy Father has heard our cry and declared for us all a Year of Mercy...”Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy”** The God-Man is the human face of mercy. Through Jesus, we know God as Father. A merciful, loving Father.
“My life is a human thing, a human experience. I think the healing that our Lord did with this deaf man talks about that. He uses part of himself to heal. We have to use our every day life in order to heal ourself and experience conversion. When we allow ourselves to be healed, then we see life in a different way. We see life with new eyes.”*
The Father of mercy is constantly reaching out to us, offering us mercy through the only means He has – our daily, human life. Our relationships. Creation. Our work. Our daily tasks. I think if we could just stop worrying about ourselves long enough to trust God, to get a little “off-center”*, to let go of resistance a little bit, we would receive Him who is always reaching out to us – then conversion can begin. Then some merciful light would filter through that little crack in the door, and we would begin to be healed – little by little – by the merciful love of God. And little by little – we would regain our sight- and be opened.
Thus says the LORD:
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.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Streams will burst forth in the desert,
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water.
*This reflection is in response to the homily given by Fr Patricio Rodriguez, ISP at the Marian Shrine of our Lady of Schoenstatt last Sunday, September 6th, 2015, recording below.
**Complete readings for that Sunday can be found here.
*** Pope Francis, “Misericordiae Vultus” BULL OF INDICTION OF THE EXTRAORDINARY JUBILEE OF MERCY