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  • Writer's pictureJohn Bryant

Mark 7:31-37: A Private Mercy, a Public Witness

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus[h] charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

How tender a Mercy that involves Christ’s fingers stuffed in our dirty ears and His spit on unclean lips. This was a mercy that required privacy. Redemption came with the tender physicality of touch and breath and saliva.

Are there mercies too tender, too secret to name? That require, as was required with this man, privacy?

It makes me think of saints who pray for Christ’s wounds to be pressed to the most unwholesome of their wounds and for His blood to be drunk down to the most hidden corner of the profanity of their heart.

Can we trace the secret thread of Mercies too intimate to name? Have we felt Christ’s own involvement in our privacies? Our most tender autobiographies, our most vulnerable healings?

The Lord stuffs his fingers into his ears, and touches his tongue with own spit. And speaks words to him, “Be opened.”

And yet, his most tender Mercies create ears that hear, and mouths that speak.

Here, a private Mercy becomes a public witness.

A man who now hears and speaks.

I think of the Christ who revealed himself as crucified, the ugly vulnerable tenderness of it. An ugliness, a vulnerability, an abuse, a misery, a trauma that should have been kept private. But has now become a public Word. An overturning Word.

I think of our own privacies. Those dangling threads of Mercy, things that healed us in secret. I think of discernment, of knowing when to pull out those threads. When to tell our stories, to hold out the private Mercy of healed scars and humiliations. When for a private mercy to become a public witness, when, exactly, our privacies, those dangling threads of Mercy, should be woven into the Church’s one public witness of Christ.

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