[Valiya Metropolitan of Mar Thoma Church]


'Again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, He came to the sea of Galilee, through coasts of Decapolis. They brought to Him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech Him to put his hand upon him. He took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and He spit, and touched his tongue; Looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. Straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plain.' [St. Mark 7:31-35]

There is a big question mark in front of all of us. The question in front of us is whether Jesus is present in our Church services and evangelical congregations. We see Bishops, priests and a large crowds assembled in all spiritual assemblies. Whether we can see Jesus Christ in any of the participants? Where else can we see and experience the divine presence of Lord? Normally, we presume that God will be present in the midst of assemblies of men and women. But Multitudes do not have a consistent motivation. We see people go for different assemblies of controversial ideologies, at different occasions. The crowd work and stand for time bound necessities and ideologies. Performances in the crowd are motivated for the acceptance by the crowd.

Crowd or multitude is not a society. Crowd does not keep any personal relations between individuals. The relations in assembles are short-lived only till the life of the crowd itself. There are no cherishing bondages or heart-bound experiences in the crowd. No long-standing bonding is established.

Church is the congregation of individuals. Inter-relation between individuals and relation with God is the motivation of Church. The crowd is not important in the Church. The relation is key foundation of Church. It is a persistent and long-living relation. Relations brought up in hardships are long living relations. Those types of relations are realistic.

In the cited scripture portion we have here an account of a deaf and dumb man among the crowd who got healed by Jesus. His cure was solemn, and some of the circumstances of it were singular. A dumb person cannot call his/her mother, 'Mom', to express his/her needs to her. Their longings and desire can not be expressed fully to the near and dear ones or to the society. But there are many people in this world who are the partakers of the necessities of those who cannot express or present their needs. This person among the crowd had two sicknesses. He couldnot hear and he was slow or had impediment to speak.

Jesus reminded the people concerning the motivation upon which the crowd and multitude was grounded, even though it is in the name of Spiritual purpose. There are many people in this world without dwelling places. The concept of house of those on the streets is a small place to lay their head to rest. Society should be ready to see through the needs of those people and respond to them. So it is a mission of the Church to respond to such needy in the society. If a small one/two member family construct mansions of very large area, how he can become the partakers of the needy people in the neighbourhood who are looking for a place to lay their head? How such a person can claim as the member of the same society?

The deaf and dumb man had a need to which the multitude could not respond with. Jesus wanted to make variation to the contemporary crowd and society. Jesus interacted with him in private, as an explication of the instructions of His message to the multitude. Christ took him aside from the multitude to a remote place to form a new society of fewer crowd which knew and responded to each others need.

Jesus was establishing a small society or church of two people which responded to their needs. One person of the new congregation was Jesus Himself who was considered as a Guru. The other was an invalid man who could not communicate or link with other society. Jesus knew his necessity. His need was to hear and speak. In the remote isolated place, Jesus put his finger in his ear, He spit, sighed, looked to heaven and said to him, Ephphatha, which meant 'Be opened'.

We can see many such small groups in the world who responds to the needs of man. The new small society or church formed by Jesus had caused for a transformation of a larger society. God is looking for a Church with a vision to know the needs of co-beings and to know the creator. Jesus knew the needs of the deaf and dump man without the presentation of it by himself. The disabled man in link with Jesus could transform the world. The Church which is bride of Jesus existing in the world, in place of Jesus, should discharge its mission to know the needs of people.

We are always anxious to present our needs to the society, world and to God. But our ears are deaf to hear the needs of others and dumb to respond to their needs. Church cannot close its eyes towards its commission.

Deaf and dumb man in an evangelical congregation is a sleeping member of the crowd. It is the responsibility of the church to wake a sleeping man in the congregation. The loud voice 'Ephphatha' is a thunder voice for a sleeping man. It means to open. When it was opened he woke up from his sleep. He started communicating with the society. He became an active part of the society. He started speaking to other people. This gave bigger message to the society.

Before Jesus had done miracle to heal the deaf man, he ordered the man to come along with Him and told him to open. He responded and took a participation in healing act of Jesus. He told the blind man to wash in the pool. He told Lazarus to come out. He told the daughter of Jairus, ‘Talitha kum!’ to arise. He told Zacchaeus to hurry and come down. Participation on our part is a necessity for the miracle by Lord.

What happens when our hearing is restored? When the ear is opened we hear the world; We hear the voices of man and nature for the first time. The worldview insists that church should hear and follow the world. Is our Gospel given to us for this? The great design of Christ’s coming was, to set aside the tradition of man following the world and the crowd. Man should hear the need of world and Church and society should hear the need of man. This is the God's view. That should be the ultimate motivation of all our Christian congregations and evangelical assemblies.

[Extract from Inaugural Address delivered at Maramon Convention 2007
Original in Malayalam : Translated for LOL by Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew Philadelphia, USA]

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