For over 70 years, Alcoholics Anonymous has helped people from all over the world overcome addictions to alcohol, drugs and other destructive behaviors. Through a program comprised of 12 steps, the addicts learn to combat the spiritual sickness at the root of their compulsions by confessing that they are powerless to change their behavior and by giving control of their lives over to a "higher power". As they make their way through the other steps and achieve a certain level of serenity and healing, they learn that it is not enough for them to simply stop drinking or using drugs. If they are to know true and lasting healing, they cannot keep their stories to themselves. Rather, they have to reach out to others with the good news that their addictions can be overcome. It is part of the healing process itself to help bring others to experience healing in their own lives.
The same is true with those who are healed by Jesus. They are so overcome with joy after their encounter with him that they have to tell everyone about it. It is interesting that throughout the gospel of Mark, Jesus commands people not to tell anyone who he is and what he has done for them. It seems strange to us that Jesus would want to hide his identity, but he needed it to be clear to the people that he would not be a political Messiah who would liberate them from Roman rule, but a suffering servant who would free all people from the tyranny of sin. When he tells the apostles not to tell anyone who he is, they obey him. Even the demons whom he casts out obey him when he tells them to keep quiet. But those whom Jesus heals, though they are warned sternly not to spread the word, cannot help but go around telling everyone they meet about the powerful prophet who restored them to health. For them, telling the story of Jesus' healing power is part of the healing process itself.
Today's gospel is no different. Jesus opens the ears of a deaf man and heals his speech impediment. Throughout his whole life he was unable to hear the sounds all around him. Now the first voice he hears is that of Jesus commanding his ears to be opened. During his life he probably spoke only when necessary because he was ashamed of his speech impediment. Now, with his tongue loosened by Jesus, he cannot help but tell everyone about the miracle that God performed in his life. His first clear words were praise of God for the gift of healing he received in Jesus. How could he now be expected to keep silent about the great work God performed in his life?
Jesus continues to be in our midst exercising his healing powers. Though it is rare, it still happens that people are cured of diseases or physical impairments through the power of prayer. Most often, however, the healings we experience through faith are of an emotional or spiritual nature. Because of our own prayers or those of others, we may find ourselves finally able to forgive someone who has hurt us. Or we may find the strength to let go of a burden of anger which we were carrying for many years. Or we may simply be overcome with a sense of God's infinite mercy and believe that our sins have been forgiving. No matter how we may experience it, each of us here has been touched by Jesus and healed. Now it is up to us to tell others about it so that they too may meet Jesus, the healer. If we want to hold on to the healing we have received, and if we want it to deepen in our lives, we must spread the word.
It could also be that many of us have been waiting for a healing that just has not come yet. Whether the cure we are seeking is for ourselves or someone we love, we have prayed, offered up Masses and asked others to pray for us, but God has not chosen to touch us with his healing power as yet. It could be that, for reasons only he can know, he wants us to bear that suffering so that we can grow to be more like his Son. Or it could be that he wants us first to bear witness to what he has already done for us to others. Many times when we take the opportunity to speak to others about the wonders God has worked in our lives, we look back and see that the healing has already been granted to us. We just have not noticed it. If we are seeking a healing and have tried everything from prayer to counseling to try to get it, could it be that God is asking us to try one more thing - making known to others the good things Jesus has already done for us?
Before we approach this altar to receive the Body of Christ, we will pray: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed." The Eucharist is the greatest source of healing for our body, mind and spirit. The man in today's gospel was privileged to have Jesus touch his ears and his tongue, but we have the awesome gift of receiving him into our entire body. If we approach him with faith, he will open our ears to hear his word and loosen our tongues to proclaim his praises. If we seek a healing, he knows it and most certainly will want to grant it to us in some form or another. It will then be up to us to spread the word that our God heals and saves.