Fr Frank O’Dea SSS
Gospel and Homily for Twenty-Third Sunday Year B
Returning from the region of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a man who was deaf and who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hands on him. Jesus took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.
Then he looked up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘be opened’. And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf hear and the mute to speak.’
In the first reading (Isaiah 35:4-7) the prophet tells the people to be strong and not to fear, and that God will come and heal the blind and the deaf, and the tongue of the speechless will sing for joy.
This reading leads into the gospel story of Jesus healing the man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech.
This story has a special significance for me because I had a speech impediment for most of my life.
I won’t bore you with all the details so I’ll just give you a brief summary of my story as a personal witness.
Stammering was very painful for me at school as many of the teachers did not understand my problem. One teacher rebuked me for doing it deliberately.
I often used to go to the church at lunch time and pray for a miracle, but the miracle never came.
I wished to become a priest but the speech prevented that, so I became a brother in the Blessed Sacrament Congregation. I spent 20 years as a brother doing sacristy work, cleaning and mostly cooking.
Then by divine providence I picked up a book in the library on how to relax. I followed the exercises given in the book and this was a big help for me. After some years my speech had improved to the extent I was allowed to study for priesthood, though the remnants of the problem were still there.
The final healing came just four or five years ago when I was in my early 80s. I realised that when other people speak they put effort into it, they speak with some force. This seemed to be natural to them but this is not what I was doing so I began to speak more forcefully as others do. I spoke with authority without being authoritative.
At the same time I realised I was not breathing deeply enough so I made sure I was taking a deep breath when I spoke. I also decided to speak with a deeper voice, and this helped.
I feel these three points were an inspiration from the Holy Spirit.
Now I feel I’m completely free of the problem for which I thank God from the depths of my heart. This was not an instant miracle as it was for the man in the gospel story.
I call it a miracle in slow motion.
I am so grateful to the Lord I can praise him with the psalm response ‘Praise the Lord my soul.’
It has been a wonderful gift to be free of this embarrassing burden.
Like the man in the gospel I speak ‘plainly’ as other people do.