Jesus seems to be doing some strange things. We read in the Gospel time and time again that Jesus just touched a person to cure them, or said, “Be cured. Your faith has made you whole.” Today we see Jesus spitting and touching a man’s tongue. Perhaps the key to this strange behavior is the location: after all, Jesus is in Gentile country, pagan territory, and the man would be used to this kind of religious ritual. It would be part of his religious experience, so by this behavior Jesus is showing concern for this man to put him at ease.
These simple gestures of Christ, touching his ears and tongue, become sacramental in as much as they affect what they symbolize. For the most part, everything Jesus did was simple. He spoke simple words of healing. He reached out and touched. There was no roll of thunder, no flashing lightning, and no pillar of fire, just words and touch, gentleness and love, concern and compassion.
One of the problems of Jesus was that He was so ordinary. There was nothing eccentric about Him. He did not live in a palace or a cave. He was born of a Jewish mother, and He died five miles from where He was born.
He ate and drank. He went to Cana for a wedding and to Bethany for a burial. He knew anger and sorrow. He spoke of lilies and sparrows, war and peace. He worked with His hands with wood, not gold or silver. He learned what hunger and thirst feel like. He was once tired enough to sleep out a storm in a boat.
There was nothing eccentric about Christ, He was like us in all things except sin. Perhaps Christ was too ordinary for us. Christ would not have fit into our culture very well.
Our society keeps telling us that you must achieve, you must be the best. The “A” mentality: I must get an “A” in everything because a “B” or “C” is not good enough. To be number one is what we strive for: we must wear the latest fashions, drink the latest drink, and look good. TV tells us that thin is in, youth and good looks are in, and if you are not a “10” you are a “0.” Our vocabulary is dotted with words like fantastic, great, and new and improved. The ordinary is not good enough.
I am not suggesting that we do not try and improve ourselves, or expand our horizons. Do not go away and say, “He said that I do not have to work for an “A” on a test.” You do! God gave you a brain: use it!
I am saying that we should realize our limitations, accept who we are, and work with what we have. Sometimes what we see as ordinary in ourselves is very special to our family and friends.
God gave most of us a very special gift, the gift that He restored to the man in the Gospel today: the gift of speech and hearing. How do we use them? Do we ever say “Thanks?” How about “I love you,” “Forget it” or “I’m sorry?” Words like a father to his children, “Let’s go play!” Words like a son or daughter speaking to a parent, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Words from a student, “I can’t go out tonight, I have to study.” The gift of speech is so ordinary that we do not think much about it, yet it can do so much good.
The gift of hearing is important. So often we hear without really listening or comprehending. It happens all the time. I was talking to a woman whose primary complaint about her husband was “He does not talk to me.” The longer we talked, however, the more I got the feeling that the real problem was something else. What she was really saying was he does not listen to me. He does not hear my sorrow or joy. He does not hear my hopes. He is all closed up in his own little world and simply does not hear me. So often in relationships, the problem is not with the tongue, but with the ears.
Jesus used the ordinary things in this world. All through scripture we see Jesus take the ordinary, and work a miracle. Today He used touch and words. He took bread and wine, and gave us the Eucharist. The crowd was full of amazement, He has done all things well, they said. We, too, will be full of amazement if we first accept ourselves for what we are, and rely on Him to make us what we ought to be.