Reading – Mark 7:31-37
There is a poem by Myra Brooks Welch called “The Touch of the Master’s Hand”. In this poem, she tells the story of an old dusty violin being auctioned. The violin is about to be sold for a mere $3, when a grey-haired man steps forward, picks it up, dusts it off, tunes it and begins to play.
The man plays such sweet music on the violin that when he finishes, the bidding jumps into thirty thousand dollars. What changed its value? What transformed the old dusty violin into a precious instrument? The touch of the Master’s hand.
In the Gospel, the touch of the Master’s hand is none other than the touch of Jesus himself. A deaf and a dumb man is brought to him. Jesus puts his finger into the man’s ears and touches his tongues with spittle, immediately the man is able to hear and to speak.
Several days after the healing, he was approached by a press reporter for an interview.
Reporter: Sir, can you give a brief account of your life before and after the cure?
Man: Sure. People thought that I was a nuisance. They used to get irritated and annoyed with me. So I tried to avoid all company. I felt lonely and abandoned.
I began to feel useless. I couldn’t hear the laughter of children, the singing of the birds, and the bleating of young lambs, the sound of the wind in the trees, the roar of the waters. I couldn’t hear the voices of friends. I couldn’t hear words of comfort and encouragement, or words of hope and advice.
Few people tried to communicate with me but they found it tedious and left me. They did not have the patience or the skill to deal with me. I felt terribly isolated and cut off.
Reporter: I was informed that you were also dumb. How did that compound to your problems?
Man: I was just going to tell about that. My dumbness added to my deprivation. You see, I couldn’t explain myself, no matter how strong my feelings may be. I had lots fears and anxieties but I had to keep them bottled up inside me. There were some secrets and creative ideas I longed to share with someone but could not share it. At one time I tried it but I got embarrassed. People laughed at my stammering. So I gave up trying.
You know children were afraid of me. They would run away at my sight, thinking that I was insane and dangerous. People even hesitated to touch me. Some people would look at me point their fingers to the sky, trying to tell me to believe that my afflictions were a punishment from God, for what exactly I never knew. But what it meant was that I was cursed by God. Imagine how that made me feel.
You see, I was brimming over with self-pity. I craved for compassion. I ended up, however, with the conviction that there was no single person who either understood or pitied me. That was until the day I learned about Jesus. He was a Jew and I was a gentile, but I did not let this deter me from seeking his help.
Reporter: Tell us about that unique experience with Jesus.
Man. What an experience! The first thing he did was take me aside from the crowd. Thus he made me feel that I was important to him. That in fact at that moment nothing or nobody else mattered to him but me. He gave me his undivided attention. At the same time he saved me from the curiosity of hawkers.
He did not speak to me as it would have been a waste of words. He did something far more important – he touched me. He knew that this was the only way to really communicate with me. It was in the quality of his touch that his compassion came through to me. There was nothing rough or hurried about his touch. It was tender, and patient, and loving.
He put his fingers into my ears. Then he did something unthinkable. He put his finger into his mouth, took some healing spittle from it, and out some of it on my tongue. Next he raised his eyes to heaven to show me that it was from God that help was to come. I was told afterwards that he then gave a great sigh. In this way he showed that he was entering into my pain and anguish, and sharing them with me. Only then did he speak. He said: “Be opened!” And suddenly my ears were opened and I began to hear. In the same moment my speech became normal. I was cured!
I can no more describe how I felt afterwards that I could describe how I felt before. He told me not to broadcast what he had done for me. But how could I keep quiet about it! I felt that the finger of God had touched me. I was like a bird wanting to fly!
Reporter: What have you decided to do in life after such an experience?
Man: I am going to take Jesus as my personal Saviour and learn more about him and make him my intimate friend. I will try to get married with a religious minded girl and build up and good family. I want my family to become like the holy family and will bring many people to Jesus. He will be the king and centre of our life. I will not allow any bad habits or addictions enter my home. I will surrender myself and my whole family to Jesus.
Reporter: What message would you like to give to people?
Man: What I discovered from my experience is this: the greatest tragedy is not to be born blind, deaf or dumb, but to have eyes but cannot see, to have ears and yet fail to hear; and to have tongues and yet fail to speak. Seeing, hearing and speech are gifts from God, great gifts. But without a heart that is able to feel compassion, we will never be able to make full use of them. The man who touched my ears and my tongue also touched my heart. So become God’s compassion. See Jesus in others, especially the less fortunate and the deprived.
If Jesus could personally address us, this would be his message:
“I have no hands but your hands to do my work today;
I have not feet but your feet to lead others in my way;
I have not voice but your voice to tell people how I died;
I have no help but your help to lead them to my side.”
Let us become His hands, His feet, His voice and His heart, so that we can lead many people to His side.
Dr. (Fr.) John Parankimalil SDB
Homily preached during Nairobi University Retreat
on 31st December 2012