What is the difference between Mark’s Gospel’s short ending and the Gospel reading for the Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary time? The short ending of Mark’s Gospel reads:
When Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices… They were utterly amazed. He told them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. Go and tell his disciples and Peter…’” They went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone.
So ends Mark’s original version of his Gospel. Some speak of a Messianic Secret of which nobody has of yet given a reason. One possible reason is this ending. St. Mark juxtaposes the earlier healings/miracles with this greatest one. Jesus heals Jarius’ daughter. In Jarius’ small town, every body knew the child was dead. Now, explain her presence on the playground the following day.
Our reading for the Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary time ends, “Immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them to tell no one… He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
In the first reading above, the angels tell the women to tell the disciples what they saw and they tell nobody. In the second, Jesus tells people to tell nobody and they tell everybody. Why is this?
The Gospel reading reads, “The people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd, put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, bring his tongue near…” There is a pun in this passage, which only works in Aramaic. The word for “Spitting,” is “Rack,” and the word for “Touching,” used in this passage is “Car of.” “Rack,” and “Car” use the same letters in Aramaic, only in inverse order. What does Jesus touch his tongue with? His fingers are in the other man’s ear. More importantly, why does Jesus only heal the man’s deafness, but this also heals his inability to speak.
God gave humankind two ears and only one mouth,for a reason. In order to speak, we must first be able to hear. The people are not part of the great healing of the deaf man. The women at Jesus tomb are very much a part of what is going on. The resurrection happens to them, and by extension to us. We are one with Jesus; what happens to one member happens to all. When one cow in a herd is spooked, the whole herd bolts. The cows in the field next door look, but do not act. The women at Jesus’ resurrection are part of Jesus’ flock. What happens to him happens to them as well. The crowd at the healing of the deaf man are excited about seeing a healing, but they are not one with the deaf man, so do not feel the religious awe of the women at the resurrection.
Mark 7 has this story of the deaf man. The next chapter has the healing of the blind man, and the message is much the same. “He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on him and asked, ‘Do you see anything?’ Looking up he replied, ‘I see people looking like trees and walking.’ He laid hands on his eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.”
Both stories involve spit. Both stories have the same message. Related, is the parable of the sower. In this passage, Mark 4:24 reads in Greek, “See what you hear, the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. The one having more will be given more; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
See what you hear. The deaf man has his ears opened, and is able to speak. The blind man first sees walking trees. The Aramaic word for tree and counselor is “Eights.” He first sees counselors, occupations, stodgy old men filling a role. The second time he sees real people with real feelings and everything. Speak of the parable of the sower, just what does separate the good soil from the bad soil? The bad soil is “Path.” It is trampled down and hard. Scrub cattle have lived a hard life and find it hard to forgive. The good soil is aerated. “Spiritual,” is a fancy Latin word meaning, having air in it, aerated. Aerated soil is soft to the touch, and touching is important in all of these stories. Greek has two words for soft, “απαλός,” and, “μαλακός.” In the case of the good soil, the appropriate word is “απαλός.” The second word appears throughout the Gospels, once in reference to the weak, that is to say boys used for prostitution. In the four Gospels it is used exclusively for weakness as in the sick of whom Jesus heals. Conservatives like to use weakness exclusively in the negative sense, as a fault. It is the weak Jesus comes to heal, not the strong. Matthew 9:12 quotes Jesus in reference to the weak when he says he came to heal them, not the healthy.
“See what you hear.” When we truly look and see the other person, seeing who he is as a human being, and when we truly listen to the other person, striving to understand where he comes from, even if we must disagree, we start the movement toward becoming a community. We become one with Jesus, sharing in his resurrection. We become soft, aerated, spiritual people, people other nations would strive to be like. Are we up to the task?