Today readings have something to say about deafness. The story in the gospel reading is straightforward: a deaf/mute person is healed by Jesus’ touch as He proclaims: “Ephphatha.” The gospel verses are a prophetic sign that in Jesus, the One has arrived. The One by whom and in whom the world can be restored to its original wholeness in mind, body and spirit; the One to whom we need listen.
The psalm is a prayer in which God speaks, reminding us that, despite our best intentions, we sometimes suffer from hardness of heart and are not always listening to God – and even if we are, we may not be “hearing” God. And that brings us to the first reading.
King Solomon made the young Jeroboam a superintendent over the building of the fortress Millo in Jerusalem and of other public works. Jeroboam came to realize the widespread discontent among the tribes caused by the extravagances and near-forced labor which marked the reign of Solomon. Now, to what or to whom was Jeroboam listening? Was he listening to the siren’s call of power, money and the throne? He was certainly influenced by the words of the prophet Ahijah. Jeroboam formed a conspiracy that ultimately led to the rebellion in which the 10 northern tribes separated from the Throne of David.
Was Ahijah speaking on behalf of the Lord? The answer to that question might not matter because Jeroboam doesn’t really listen. Just outside our reading, the prophet tells Jeroboam: “If, then, you heed all that I [the Lord] command you, walking in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments like David my servant, I will be with you. I will build a lasting house for you, just as I did for David; I will give Israel to you.” (1 Kgs 11:38) Seems like a standard message of the prophet to those in power. But Jeroboam wants the throne and not the burden of keeping the statues and commandments. As seen in the image above, Jeroboam was soon building places of worship to the gods of other people. Evil grew in the northern area. Just a few chapters later, Ahijah again prophesied the death of the Jeroboam’s son, the destruction of the House of Jeroboam, and the fall and captivity of the 10 northern tribes.
Throughout the story, Jeroboam was deaf. The prophets brought him the Word of God, but he remained deaf. His deafness and hardness of heart led to his destruction.
The deaf/mute person is healed by Jesus’ touch as He proclaims: “Ephphatha.” Did you know that there is an Ephphatha Rite that is part of a child’s baptism. After the baptism with water, the priest makes the sign of the Cross on the child’s ears and lips, praying that the child’s ears be open to hear the Word of God and their lips be open to proclaim the Word of God to the waiting world. The baptismal rite is a hopeful sign that the parents will be the first teachers of the Faith and the child will grow to ever more deeply and richly hear the Faith – and take it to heart.
Even at the beginning the Church understands the lessons of Sacred Scripture: we can be hard of hearing and in a world that is a cacophony of sound and distractions, we can grow deaf. Hardness of heart is not far behind. The Church blesses us in the beginning. Along the way may we daily pray today’s gospel alleluia: Open our hearts, O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son.
Image credit: Jeroboam Offering Sacrifice for the Idol | Claes Moeyaert | Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University | PD-US