Being hard of hearing or deaf is one of those hidden disabilities. For those who have hearing difficulties it is a hard way to live; not just for them but for their families as well. Sometimes the hard of hearing don’t realize that they can’t hear. But, in a sense, it is what Jesus was talking about in the parable of the sower and the seed. (Mt 13:14-38) Why is it that we don’t hear when our ears work perfectly well? Perhaps it was in frustration that Jesus said, “They have ears to hear but do not hear!” Some of us hear sound and let the words pass through one ear and out the other without any understanding. As parents, sometimes our kids are like that, or we ourselves may be just as guilty.We hear the sounds but the words do not register! There’s a world of difference between hearing and. listening. Listening requires attention and engagement with the words, the time, the meaning and the speaker. If our mind is focused elsewhere, the speaker’s meaning does not penetrate.
Jesus was a good teacher. Knowing his audience, he used a favorite teaching devise; story telling or parables. Every public speaker knows that a story draws people in, not just to hear but to listen. So why didn’t some of Jesus’ listeners ( or our own Pastor’s) get the message ? Because to listen and hear requires several things; listening, noise control, interest in the topic and minimizing distractions. Today, Jesus is still addressing us, as well as the folks on a hillside in Galilee. We may miss the message because of distraction or a wandering mind.
When we read Scripture or listen to a homily something should happen within us. Homilies are not for our entertainment but for our instruction. Was I challenged, inspired, hungry to learn more? Here in New Hampshire, politics is a living breathing entity every year and sometimes all year.We listen to the politicians, we engage with them, challenge them, call them out, pull apart their words, testing for truth and commitment. We meet them in rallies yes, but also in living rooms and coffee shops; small venues so we can get up close and personal. Voting is too important to swallow a politician’s words as truth, as if we were mindless sheep. We need a sane, discerning kind of hearing to separate fact from fiction.
Hearing God’s Word requires even more serious attention and effort. It may require study, questioning and a willingness to be challenged by the Word. Rather than, Oh yeh, I’ve heard that parable before. Nothing new! Nothing new? Really? Maybe try writing about what you read as if you are trying to explain it to someone else. When I was a teacher, I used to do a whole explanation in my head as if I needed to make it easy enough for kids to get.
Just like the Deaf and hard of hearing we may need to utilize some hearing aids. Today hearing aid technology is quite sophisticated. It can be linked to Bluetooth, smart phones and can even adjust background sounds. So what hearing aids would improve the hearing of us, the hearing abled? First create a space for silence, real silence with perhaps only the sounds of nature. Use religious images to keep you focused and don’t look at the dust on the table tops. The best tool to kick off prayer and hearing God’s voice is using Scripture. Read 5-10 minutes a day. Read just one passage and maybe read it two or three times until something new emerges. (God has spoken.) How does this word or phrase impact you?
Another aid is solid Catholic spiritual reading by good Catholic authors. Matt Kelly, Peter Kreeft, Scott Hahn, Bishop Barron etc. Oh, no time to read? There is a lot available on the internet that you can listen to while folding laundry or driving. Bishop Barron provides a short little homily on Gospel readings. Want to know your faith better? Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church in small doses. This is more like a text book. If you are serious about hearing God. then you need to be disciplined about it. Carve out the time and put it in your planner. Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your bathroom or bedroom door. Tell the kids you’re in Time Out!
I have always been a ‘church shopper’ whenever I move. I look for good reverent liturgy and music as well as good, solid Catholic teaching in the homilies. I am responsible for feeding my soul, so I look for the best. Finally, take it all to prayer and chew it over with God. A Holy Hour is a great source of grace to do just that. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your ears to hear and your mind to understand. Keep at it. He will not fail you.