In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of
the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Beloved, today our Lord opens our ears to hear His Word. He looses our tongues to confess our sin and to sing forth his praises.
We do not know why the multitudes brought the deaf-mute to Jesus. It may be they had heard the words of the Gerasene demoniac. From him Jesus had cast a legion of demons and said, Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.
Whatever the particulars, the multitudes saw Jesus as he traveled through the midst of the Decapolis. They brought him their friend. Imagine it for a moment. Your friends urge you along to see a Galilean, a foreigner. You cannot speak. You cannot hear. You have no idea what's going on.
But your friends do. They have heard about the One who was delivered from demons near the sea. They have heard about the pigs that ran off the side of the cliff. They have seen a crazy man speak plainly and boldly of the wonderful things God has done for him.
But none of this had come to the deaf man. He could not hear. He could not listen to the stories about this traveling Galilean. To the deaf man, this Jesus was a man, no different from any other, and he didn't even know why his friends wanted him to go down this road in the heat of the day.
We know that this man was very much alone. As much as his friends might have tried to get through to him what they were doing and who they were bringing him to see, the deaf man was isolated from them. He was languishing in a soundless prison, one where his friend could have screamed his name inches from his face and he would not have heard even a whisper.
Satan was satisfied with this arrangement. Depriving this man of hearing and speech was all that was needed to send him to his own personal hell on earth. The deaf man could not meaningfully interact with anyone. His only company was himself, and for those of us who know our sin, there is nothing more painful than to be left to ourselves.
So we see a deaf man. He is alone with his sin, with his wickedness. He cannot hear the words of his Savior. He cannot be told that Jesus has come to heal him. He has no lips to cry out for his Lord's mercy. The man despairs and Satan smiles.
Consider your own pain. You have isolated yourself in times of grief. You have considered your pain too great to be taken away. And so you keep it to yourself. You pull yourself up by your bootstraps and say, Buck up, brother. Don't be a wimp. There are
people that have it a lot worse than you do.
But think about it. The harder you pull on your bootstraps, the more likely it is that you'll fall on your face and win yourself a bloodied nose. You will bring yourself more pain, and you will not be comforted. The agony will increase, and you will forget that it need not continue. Grief will grow into despair.
Rejoice! The pain of your isolation has been carried on the back of the Galilean. It has nailed Him to the cross. In His wounds He has borne it, and He that died is not dead, but your loneliness is gone forever.
Jesus has born our weaknesses. He has carried our sorrows. He says to the man who can neither speak nor hear, Ephphatha! Be thou opened!
And the man who once heard nothing, hears the song of a bird in an olive tree. He hears the voices of his friends around him. He opens his mouth, and from it comes words in praise of the one who has healed him.
It is not good for the man to be alone, and thus, Jesus has brought the man who could not hear into communion with Himself. He has touched him with his fingers. His divine spittle has opened the ears that heard only silence.
But now the man hears comfort. He has heard the Law screamed through the silence he has languished in for decades. But now, having opened his ears, Jesus has a new word for him. His Word is comfort. Be strong! Fear not; behold your God... has come and saved you. The eyes of the blind are opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. The lame leap as an hart and the tongue of the dumb sing... The ransomed of the Lord have returned and come to Zion with singing. Everlasting joy is upon their heads: they have obtained joy and gladness and sorrow and sighing have flown away!
It is the same for you. You need not bear your pain. Jesus has considered it pure joy to carry it for you. Jesus has carried your despair and your suffering to the cross. Even as He has opened your mouth and your ears, He has opened his arms and received the nails with joy. There He died for you. There He shed his blood for you. Your sin is destroyed. Your sin is paid for. In His resurrection, He has won for you eternal life.
He has delivered you from the world and you have been born from the waters of the Baptism into the Church. You are not alone. Look at the pews around you. You are surrounded by your brothers and sisters. They have all been born of those same holy waters. You, with all the children of God, may now listen to His voice. He speaks comfort to you.
Ephphatha! Jesus has opened your ears. You hear His Word. Jesus has loosed your tongue. You sing His praise. You count all trials to be pure joy, because you will be raised incorruptible at the last day.
Satan did not want your ears to be opened. He did not want you to hear Jesus' Word. Satan did not want your lips to be open. He did not want you to speak God's Words back to Him as you pray the liturgy today. Satan wanted you to to be alone in your despair. He wanted you to waste away full of nothing but yourself.
But Jesus will have none of this. Even now, He is eager to hear you confess your sins so that He might declare the forgiveness He has won for you. Even now, Jesus joyfully reminds you of your baptism, when you were begotten of His own Father and born of your holy mother, the Church. Even now, Jesus comes to you in His own body and blood. He feeds you with His own life.
You are not alone, and you will never be alone. We, the Lord's family will now approach His altar and we will be bodied and blooded together. It is at that altar, as we receive the Lord's gifts, that the true unity of the Church is confessed. Loneliness is destroyed. Despair is vanquished. Jesus has done away with them by his death for us on the cross. We look beyond ourselves to our brother and to our sister. Jesus has given Himself to us, and He has given us to each other.
Ephphatha! Be thou opened! Your open mouths will now receive that true body and blood which was shed for you for the forgiveness of sins, for eternal life, and for the strengthening of the faith He speaks into your ears.