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.
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."
One might take the first reading as describing paradise lost, while the Gospel tells of of paradise regained. In the "paradise lost" story , the man and woman now feel shame at their nakedness, while up to the time of their sin in the garden they had felt no unease in each other's company, but felt their whole selves as created to the image of God and as very good.. A sense of paradise restored is felt in the Gospel, where in his cure of the deaf and dumb man, Or Lord puts his fingers in the man's ears and touches his tongue with saliva, and looks up to heaven with a groan of petition. Jesus' words and action, even his distressed groan over the man's disability, show how this man--symbolic of all of us--was led back to the fullness of life.
That Mark intends this scene as 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... 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 offers 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.
On leaving paradise Adam and Eve felt compelled to cover themselves up, each needing cover of some kind against the other. Fear and mistrust now inhibited the open spontaneity of their relationship. The man cured of deafness and dumbness seems to toss inhibition to the wind, dancing, singing, leaping, shouting and proclaiming the good news. While we lose paradise and will--hopefully--re-enter paradise as human beings who are both physical and spiritual, the Bible encourages us to a sense of gratitude to God, source of all our good.
We can sometimes take our senses for granted, the fact that we can see, hear, smell, touch and speak. It is only when we lose one of our senses or someone close to us loses one of theirs that we begin to realize how precious those gifts are. Because they are such wonderful gifts we need to keep challenging ourselves, "How am I using these gifts of hearing, sight, speech?" In our Gospel a deaf man is brought to Jesus with an impediment in his speech. There can be a link between the two; the inability to hear can affect how people speak. Jesus first opened the man's ears, and then he could speak clearly.
For us who have the gifts of both hearing and speech, it is nevertheless true to say that the quality of our speaking is in some way related to the quality of our hearing. The better we are at listening, the better we may be at speaking. We need to listen to each other if we are to speak well to each other. More fundamentally, we need to listen to the word of the Lord if we are to speak the word of the Lord. It is only in listening to him that he can speak through us.