10 Feb. Friday of Week Five
1 Kings 11:29ff. The prophet Ahijah announces the breakup of David’s kingdom; ten of the twelve tribes choose Jeroboam as their king.
Mark 7:31ff. Jesus cures a man who was deaf and dumb, and the people are amazed as his power.
If Genesis tells of paradise lost; today’s gospel hints of paradise regained. The notion of paradise lost is behind this scene as, in order to cure the deaf and dumb man, Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears and looked up to heaven with a groan. His words and action, even his groan of distress over the man’s disability, show how the man was led back into paradise.
That Mark intends this scene to indicate the start of the final age, of paradise regained, is clear from hints later in the text. The phrase, “he makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” is from the prophecy of Isaiah, where “those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy.” The fulfilment of the messianic prophecies is near, when “desert and the parched land will exult; the barren steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will see the glory of the Lord. Here is your God, who comes with vindication, to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared (Isa 35:1-5).
Far from paradisal is the story of how the kingdom of David is rent apart, when ten of the twelve tribes will transfer their loyalty from the house of David to Jeroboam. The ten northern tribes revolt in punishment for the excesses of Solomon and his son Roboam, but they will also be God’s instrument for preserving important Mosaic traditions and for advancing the prophetic movement. In that northern kingdom will emerge the first two of the classical, writing prophets, Amos and Hosea, and the paradise section from Isaiah 35, quoted earlier, seems to come from a northern influence. It is clear that the outsider is not simply converted but brings a richness of insight into the mystery of God which we may otherwise overlook.
First Reading: 1 Kings 11:29-32; 12:19
About that time, when Jeroboam was leaving Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Ahijah had clothed himself with a new garment. The two of them were alone in the open country when Ahijah laid hold of the new garment he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. He then said to Jeroboam: Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “See, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and will give you ten tribes. One tribe will remain his, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
Gospel: Mark 7:31-37
Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”