In today's Gospel (Mark 7:31-37) we hear of the curing of a deaf man with a speech impediment. There are several details which I think are important if we want to discover what God may be saying to us in this passage.
At the beginning of the encounter, the man is introduced as being deaf with a speech impediment. This indicates that he could not hear anything, and could speak, but not clearly. It is different than being mute, which would mean he could not speak at all. Because of his lack of hearing, he could not speak correctly or clearly.
This man had difficulty carrying on a conversation. He could speak, but not clearly. He could not hear, so he had to respond to what he thought people were trying to communicate, instead of what they were really saying. As a result, he would often have misunderstood the topic of conversation and tried to say things that were not appropriate. And we are then told that, in order to correct the problem, Jesus took him off by himself, away from the crowds.
As I was reflecting on this passage, I saw a wonderful parallel to prayer. So often we try to communicate with God and without really hearing what God is trying to say to us. We end up talking at God, rather than with God. Just as with the man in the Gospel, our words are not clear, they become distorted, since we are neither sure what we should be talking about nor what they really sound like to God. As a result, this one-sided conversation is not really communication.
What is the solution to this dilemma? Again, we can look to the Gospel. Jesus took this man off by himself, away from the crowds. Our lives are usually so busy, so crowded that we do not have time or space to be quiet with God. How can we expect to hear Him when we are surrounded by distractions? Is it possible for us to replicate this miracle? Can we find a place away from the crowds and noise of our lives? And if we can, what then?
Well, a few other details in this Gospel may help us. The man needed Jesus to help him. He was not able to do it alone. Maybe we need some sort of spiritual guide or director to help us. And even though they were away from the crowd, the physical nature of life was part of the process. Jesus stuck his fingers into the man's ears, grabbed his tongue and spit. If we are not ready to be completely open and honest with God through this guide/director, it will not work. Finally, we are told that Jesus groaned. A groan comes from the deepest part of our being. It indicates that the raw emotion of the healing was neither easy or cosmetic. We have to be ready to work and be transformed if we truly want to engage in this process of healing our prayer life.
I find this Gospel to be very challenging, yet also very hopeful. If I am willing to take the time to work on hearing and speaking with God, I can expect to have my ears opened to His will and speak plainly to my God.