What the Deaf Can Hear


Mark 7: 31 – 37

Mark Twain has called kindness a language that the deaf can hear, and the blind can read. What is kindness? It is the ability to understand another person, sensing the burdens which that person must carry, and using our own resources and power to ease those burdens. When we first think of it, kindness might come across as a weak feeling, or a wimpy motivation. But kindness is in reality a forceful power than can save and heal. Jesus acts with kindness in today’s Gospel.

The clue to Jesus’ kindness is the particular way he chooses to heal the man who is brought to him. Normally Jesus heals with a word of command. But he adapts his method in today’s gospel because the person who comes before him cannot hear. Two thousand  years ago there were no cochlear implants, or hearing aids or artificial eardrums. There was not even an organized system of sign language. People who were deaf were isolated, totally isolated even from those who were closest to them. Therefore, we do not know whether those who brought the man to Jesus for healing were able to communicate to him where they were taking him or why. It is not clear whether the man knew of Jesus or his ministry. All that is clear was that the man was ripped out of his normal surroundings and suddenly found himself in the midst of a crowd of strangers. It is very likely that he was confused and fearful, uncertain of what was about to happen. Jesus knew this. Therefore, Jesus acted in a way to address the needs of the man who was before him. Jesus first took the man aside, in private, away from the crowd so the two of them could be alone together. At this point the man was perhaps already thinking, “Who is this person trying to put me at ease?” Then, because Jesus was aware that words were of no use in dealing with a person who could not hear, he employed the sense of touch. He gently placed his fingers in the man’s ear and touched his tongue. Jesus knew that this man required more than a powerful word of healing. He required privacy, sensitivity and a gentle touch. When Jesus sensed this and acted upon it, he was treating the man with kindness. He was appreciating what was going on inside of another person and adapting his own actions to meet that need.

We are talented responsible people. From day to day we live, doing the things which our lives require of us. How important is it for us not to undervalue the importance of kindness? When was the last time you were kind? You make decisions with your spouse, give advice to your spouse. But when was the last time you tried to understand what was going on inside of your spouse? When did you see what he or she needed from you and tried to meet that need? To do so would be an act of kindness. You provide for your children and give them guidance. When was the last time you tried to recognize their insecurities and take steps to assure them of their goodness, their value and their ability to succeed? To do so would be an act of kindness. You work every day with co-workers, hopefully being fair and honest with them. But when was the last time you saw a potential in another worker and took the time to bring that gift to the surface and encourage a co-worker to grow and develop that ability? To do so would not be unimportant; it would be an act of kindness.

Now of course, life is more than kindness. There are times when we need to challenge and confront others. There are many situations which require tough love. But as we live from day to day, we should not forget the power that comes from kindness. Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can read. Kindness can cut through hypocrisy and posturing. It can eliminate indifference and selfishness. How do we decide when to be challenging and when to be kind? A friend of mind is fond of saying, “Whenever in doubt, do the kind thing.”

This week, then, as we work and play, as we organize and create, as we advise and guide others, let us not forget to follow the example of Jesus in today’s gospel. Let us recognize the importance of understanding others, of sensing what they need, of hearing their cries for help. Let us not forget to do the kind thing.

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