“Blindness cuts you off from things,” said Tom, “But deafness cuts you off from people, and that’s a lot worse.” I learned a lot from listening to Tom.
“I was about fifteen,” he said “when I quite suddenly went totally deaf. I had feared blindness as a child but did not think that deafness would be a very serious handicap. Now I came to realize that the most important thing in life is being related, and this happens most of all through the faculty of hearing. When deaf, I was isolated from so much of nature. I could no longer hear the singing of birds, or the waves beating the shore. I could not hear the voices of friends, words of comfort, hope and advice. At first some people tried to communicate with me but soon they grew tired. I could see my friends getting exasperated when I missed their meanings and they tired of writing notes to me. I became embarrassed by their embarrassment. I became terribly isolated and lonely within myself.”
“Soon I began to forget how to talk. Not being able to hear myself I had no control of how loudly I was speaking and I was being constantly signaled to raise or lower my voice. Insensitive people would laugh at my stammerings, so I eventually gave up trying and began to even lose the ability to talk. This meant that I could not explain myself. No matter how strong my feelings were, no matter how I was afraid and anxious, I just had to keep it bottled up inside myself. More and more I was left to myself. I did not contribute anything to the community and gradually I felt that I was useless and in the way.”
“I was a handicapped person and when you are different people are afraid of you. People are afraid, especially to touch you. How I longed for a shove or hug but people saw me as too delicate. Then, I was led to believe that my affliction was a punishment from God. I spent hours wondering what I might have done that I should be cursed by God. Perhaps this was the deepest isolation – being isolated even from God.”
“Then about two years ago in the same week, a neighbor offered to do pranic healing on me, a group of charismatics came and prayed over me, and a young surgeon offered to do a simple surgical procedure on my ears. He said he had read about it in a journal, he could not guarantee any results but he was sure that it would not do me any further harm. I do not know which was effective but a week later my hearing began to return. I felt that the finger of God’s love had touched me and a gush of joy overtook me for days.”
“At first I talked and talked – I needed to release what was bottled up inside me. I would try to talk to everyone I met. Then I realized that I was over-talking. I was not listening and I was hurting people by inflicting myself on them. I started trying to listen; to do this I had to stop talking and open not only my ears but also my heart. Then I discovered that most hearing people are deaf. I learned too that most people had speech impediments – we can never communicate exactly what we want to say. The greatest tragedy is not to be deaf and unable to speak but it is to have these faculties and never REALLY use them to listen below the surface of things.”
That was Tom’s touching story.
In today’s Gospel we see Jesus cure a man who was deaf and unable to speak. “Be opened”! Jesus commands as he heals him. He warns the man not to tell others because Jesus was interested in promoting a deeper cure and a deeper kind of hearing. The focus isn’t on the miracle but that God comes to save. The healing miracle is a sign of God’s superabundant life breaking open the closed human condition.
When we encounter Jesus, he commands, “Be opened!” and we too are healed; our ears are opened to hear tge Good News and our tongues are loosened to proclaim it.
The encounter between Jesus and the deaf man captures the entire relationship between God and the human family. All that is necessary for us to receive salvation God offers is that we open ourselves to a relationship with God.