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‘Be opened’

Trinity 12 BCP

26 August 2007 11:00 | Fr. Roderick Leece

Dr. David Leslie, who is the Vicar of St. Cuthbert’s Croxteth Park where young Rhys Jones was tragically shot and murdered, reflected this week on how people seem to have lost the simple and basic art of communication. And also, when communication becomes difficult, how some people now seem to resort to more than plain fighting…and how, in some places, knives and guns have replaced the fist. There seems to have been a lowering of the level of commonplace physical violence in schools and society, but at the same time an upsurge in the levels of serious and fatal violence. ‘Good communication skills’ are regarded as one of those extras which might swing a job application in your favour – but it seems they need be much more fundamental than that.

We know of terrible disability when children are locked in on themselves because they are completely blind, deaf and dumb from birth. The skill and patience of specialists and parents we also know can bring about miracles as a world of communication is opened up for those who are blind, or deaf or dumb. Indeed the loss of one of the senses can mean a greater capacity for communication because of focussing on the other senses. But what happens when the eyes and ears and tongue of the heart are blocked and seized up?

How many people…how many married couples there are who do not understand each other. How many ‘dialogues of the deaf’ there are between persons, between groups, institutions or nations, when mutual trust no longer exists.

Situations like these can perhaps help us to grasp the symbolic meaning of the healing of the deaf-mute man. Faced with a chosen people who have become deaf to his preaching and who no longer listen to his ringing appeals to repent and change their lives – Jesus, the Messiah has gone over to pagan territory to preach his message there instead. The setting for today’s gospel is identifiably Gentile…the Hellenistic Decapolis, and the portion of the Galilee known as ‘of the Gentiles’. If the deaf-mute man was not already ‘outside’ the ethnic community of the Jews, then he soon would be by virtue of the ‘unclean’ action of having spittle applied to his tongue…all bodily fluids being regarded as ritually unclean. The irony is marked. The good new of Christ, from whose community nobody need be excluded, finds a hearing not among his own people (who received him not), nor even his own disciples (who have ‘ears and do not hear’)… but from a gentile man who was deaf and now can hear. To each and every one of us Jesus commands: ‘Be opened’.

There is a lovely prayer in the Roman Catholic Baptism service when Jesus’ action of touching the ears and the mouth of the person who is baptised is reflected when the priest says ‘The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb 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’

May the Lord Jesus soon touch all our ears to receive his word, and our mouths to proclaim his faith.

Be opened, O Christian…to hear and take to heart the teaching of the Gospel. Be opened, O Christian…to declare your faith with your whole life. Be opened, O Christian… to allow your prayers, your ‘Our Father’, to be expressed in your works. If only this were truly the case, then how eloquent our lives would be…and what honour they would confer and bestow on Jesus Christ. Then the whole world could not resist noticing and declaring: ‘He hath done all things well…he maketh both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak’.

These words are an echo of the end of the first chapter of the first book of Moses, which we call Genesis, when God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. Be opened, O Christian!
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