Three times the Evangelists preserved our Lord’s words in the original Aramaic:
When He cried out from the Cross, “My God, My God”
When He raised from the dead the daughter of Jairus
When He healed the man who had been deaf from birth
That “Ephphatha”—“Be opened”—in the last instance, was a sign that our Lord opens human consciousness to a full awareness of God. The Latin word for deaf—surdus—gives us “absurd,” and the ultimate absurdity is to deny the existence of God and His appeal to the human soul.
I recently had the privilege of preaching at the funeral in Memphis, Tennessee, of a most devout Catholic, Dr. John Shea, who invented the basic surgery on the inner ear that enabled him personally to cure more than forty thousand deaf people, and that has cured probably millions around the world. Years ago, he was most insistent that I not eulogize him, but rather preach the Resurrection. That was easy to do, for his own life was summed up in the words of another John, the Beloved Apostle, who exulted in the Risen Lord: “That which was from the beginning, what our ears have heard . . .” (1 John 1:1).
Dr. Shea would often tell patients born deaf that he could let them hear, but that leaving behind the silent world in which they had lived, in many ways beautiful without the noise of life, could be a shock. Many opted to remain deaf. For them it was a prudent choice, for they could hear God better in the way they had known: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Unlike physical deafness, moral deafness is a tragedy more than a disability. Selfish pride hardens the heart so that it hears but does not listen. There are examples of that in the public sphere, as many choose to be willfully ignorant while atrocities are committed. The vile anti-Semitism in Europe is chillingly reminiscent of the 1930s when so many covered their ears to the lamentations from the ghettos and concentration camps. The slaughter of twenty-one Coptic Christians in Libya was the latest outrage after countless beheadings, crucifixions or forced exiles of Christians from their ancient homelands, and the destruction of more than one thousand churches in Nigeria. All this has fallen on the morally deaf ears of those who will not acknowledge palpable evil.
During each of these Lenten days, Christ says, “Be opened.” Every Christian is commissioned by the Holy Spirit to pass that Voice on to others who are tempted to live in moral silence. When Jesus preached His parable of the Sower, He described how His Voice sometimes is ignored, or heard only superficially, or rejected in tough times. But those who absorb that sound from Heaven accomplish great things many times over. Having said that, He shouted: “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear!”
– Father George W. Rutler, 21 February 15