Jesus said: Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And the man’s ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. (Mark 7:34)
In the rite of baptism, there is a ceremony, rarely used in England and Wales, when the priest touches the ear and mouth of the baby and says ‘Ephphatha’, be opened. It is a prayer that the newly baptised may hear the Gospel and speak it.
The story in which we find these words comes after disputes between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, when it becomes clear that they are deaf to the truth of the Gospel.
This story is a miracle, and it is more than a miracle. In effect, this miracle is a prophetic act, an acted parable. It is symbolic, and more than symbolic.
Hearing and speech are mechanisms of the human body, which may often flourish, but can sometimes be impaired. Hearing can decline, and fail. Speech may be difficult or even absent. And we know that there is technology, there are medical procedures and training, which can bring great improvement and even cure. Hearing aids, surgery, speech therapy each in different ways can overcome many of the weaknesses of the human body.
And this, in part is what Jesus does by this miracle. He fixes the broken or faulty machinery of the human body. But he does much more.
The body is much more than a machine. Speech and hearing are much more than mechanical functions. We can make a lot of noise, yet signify nothing. We can hear what is said to us, yet take no heed. Hearing and speaking are gifts, like all gifts, which can be used or abused.
In fact, it is not the power of hearing or speech which we need to survive, but the ability, the possibility, to communicate. Those whose faculties cannot be repaired still find ways, through signing and other methods, to communicate. We can survive without speech and hearing - but to thrive we must communicate.
And it is THIS which is what Jesus is about. He is not some kind of divine mechanic, wandering through first century Palestine undertaking repairs. Every miracle has a meaning. Every action is a form of teaching. Every healing carries a message. They all point to some truth. To THE Truth.
And when, today, Jesus calls the ears to be opened he is not only speaking of their functional operation, but their meaning and purpose. It s about listening to his word. It is about speaking what is right. This is not about mechanical medicine, but the pursuit of truth, and mercy, and love.
Let us pray that our ears may be opened to the truth, and that we may speak it with confudence and courage.