Asking the Right Questions

By Elizabeth Baumann

A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 7:31-37

31 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. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”


I am fascinated with the values of privacy and transparency. We claim both are good, but aren’t they incompatible at some point? Where are the boundaries? It is said that evil flourishes in secret — but don’t some goods also flourish when guarded with discretion?

And Jesus doesn’t help. In today’s lesson a deaf and mute man is brought to him in the midst of a crowd. He takes him aside to heal him privately. And look what he does! “He put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue…” Imagine just how crazy that looked. Imagine how the crowd would have reacted, had they been witnesses. Some would have enjoyed the show, others scoffed.

The very fact that he takes the man aside, and no one sees what happens, and then the man is cured adds to the drama, the mystery. People love a good mystery. So surely Jesus wasn’t really surprised when people didn’t keep the secret. Keeping a really interesting secret is hard, especially when you’re excited about it. So why the extra step of taking the man aside? Why ask for secrecy?

Perhaps because, however thin the veil, privacy speaks to dignity. To heal him publicly would have made him a display, rather than a person — a person who heard a voice for the first time, heard the wind in the trees for the first time, was able to express his gratitude and wonder verbally for the first time.

Maybe Jesus helps after all: maybe asking questions about dignity gives us some answers to our struggles with transparency and privacy.

Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.

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Today we pray for:

Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui
The Diocese of West Virginia


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