11Feb Friday in the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

(There is an optional memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes)

Gen 3:1ff. Woman and man disobey God and attempt to hide from him in the garden; now their nakedness makes them ashamed.

Mark 7:31ff. Jesus cures a man who was deaf and dumb, and the people are amazed as his power.

Paradise Lost and Found

The first reading tells of paradise lost; the gospel, of paradise regained. In the “paradise lost” story , the guilty man and woman become ashamed of their nakedness, whereas up to the time of their sin, they had experienced no unease in each other’s company and sensed each aspect of themselves as created to the image of God and as very good. The physical aspects of our earthly paradise show up again in the gospel, where, in order to cure the deaf and dumb man, Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears and touched his tongue with saliva, and looked up to heaven with a groan. Jesus’ words and action, even his groan of distress over the man’s disability, manifest the human way by which 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 fulfillment of the messianic prophecies is at hand, when “desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom… They will see the glory of the Lord… Here is your God, he 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).

In fulfilling the prophecy, Jesus is flashing a hint of universal salvation, something already observed in yesterday’s story of the Syro-Phoenician woman. We can contrast the two paradises, lost and regained. In Genesis man and woman, once they had sinned, realized that they were naked and felt ashamed. In the gospel, once the man’s hearing and speech are healed, every other impediment is dropped. With joyful spontaneity he forgets the injunction not to tell anyone. Not only the man himself but everyone else announces the good news of what Jesus has acomplished. The gospel has almost a playful interaction here, for when he enjoined them strictly not to tell anyone; the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.

The first parents left paradise and at once felt compelled to cover themselves with defenses against the other person. Fear of self and mistrust of the other inhibited the spontaneity and trust of their relationship. The man cured of deafness and dumbness seems to toss all restrictions to the wind, dancing, singing, leaping, shouting and proclaiming the good news. We lose paradise and we re-enter paradise as human beings with physical bodies and spiritual souls, but the Bible seems to focus more on the earthly expressions of joy rather than on its spiritual source.

First Reading: Genesis 3:1-8

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

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.”

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