The word "Ephphatha" as the beginning of the title of the Conference's theme, calls to mind the well-known episode in Mark's Gospel (cf. 7: 31-37) which is paradigmatic of how the Lord works for deaf people. Jesus took aside a deaf mute and, after making some symbolic gestures, raised his eyes to Heaven and said to him: ""Ephphatha', that is , "Be opened'". At that moment, the Evangelist says, the man's ears were opened, his tongue released, and he spoke plainly. Jesus' gestures are full of loving attention and express deep compassion for the man who stood before him. The Lord showed the deaf man his concrete concern, drew him aside from the confusion of the crowd, made him feel his closeness and understanding by several gestures full of meaning. He placed his fingers in his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. He then invited him to turn his interior gaze, that of his heart, together with him to the heavenly Father. Finally, he healed him and restored him to his family, to his people, and the crowd, marvelling, could only exclaim: "He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak!" (Mk 7: 37).
By his way of behaving which reveals the heavenly Father's love, Jesus does not only heal physical deafness but points out that there is another form of deafness of which humanity must be cured, indeed, from which it must be saved: it is deafness of the spirit, which raises ever higher barriers against the voice of God and that of one's neighbour, especially the cry for help of the lowliest and the suffering, and closes the human being in profound and ruinous selfishness. As I had the opportunity to say in the Homily during my Pastoral Visit to the Diocese of Viterbo last 6 September: "we can see in this "sign' Jesus' ardent desire to overcome man' s loneliness and incommunicability created by selfishness, in order to bring about a "new humanity', the humanity of listening and speech, of dialogue, of communication, of communion with God. A "good' humanity, just as all of God's Creation is good; a humanity without discrimination, without exclusion... so that the world is truly and for all a "scene of true brotherhood'" (Homily, Mass in Faul Valley, Viterbo, 6 September 2009).