March 2007 - Volume 11, Issue 8

The Necessity Of Hearing Life's Truths

Msgr. Frank Wissel

Image of a soundwaveThe New Testament reports that Jesus healed people who were physically deaf. Somehow, he opened their ears and introduced to the wonderful world of sound. Imagine how it would feel to hear the singing of birds and the voices of friends and family, for the very first time.

There is a Gospel that deals with another kind of deafness, a deafness that Jesus apparently could not heal. He noticed that people often did not hear what he was trying to tell them. His teaching, as we know, produced radical change in the lives of some, but for others they were hardly affected at all. Jesus put this strange contradiction into a parable.

He compared his teaching to a farmer planting a crop. Some of the seed grew to maturity and produced a harvest, but some of them did not. The problem was not with the farmer or his seed, but with the ground where the seed happen to fall. Part of it was hard, and the seed just lay there on the surface, until the birds ate them.

Another part was shallow, just a thin lawyer of topsoil, covering a ledge of rock. There, the seed sprouted quickly, but also died quickly, because they had no deep roots.

Other seed feel on ground that was contaminated with thorns. They sprouted and grew. But the thorns also grew and eventually choked the seed to death.

Each of these three kinds of soil illustrates a hearing problem, a kind of deafness that resides, not in the ear, but in the heart and mind. None of us is a stranger to this kind of hearing problem. It is not true of you and me that we sometimes do not hear things, even though our ears are in perfect order.

Picture this scene. It could have happened in any one of a million households. A man comes home from work and asks his wife, "How was your day? Anything interesting happen?" And the woman begins to tell her story. For example, one of the neighbors had a heart attack and is in the hospital. A couple down the street is getting divorced after 25 years of marriage. The Smiths just had a new baby, a little girl, the cutest thing you ever saw.

Right in the middle of all this, the man says, "What's for dinner?" And his wife says, "You haven't heard a word I said." And he has to admit that she is right. He has not heard any of her stories. There is nothing wrong with his ears. The problem is in his mind. It is so full of other thoughts that his wife's words simply got crowded out.

Most of us can identify with that scene. We have played both parts. We have talked without being heard, and we have listened without really hearing.

Jesus certainly identified with the first part. He lived with it all of his ministry. The truth that he spoke was endlessly falling on deaf ears. He told the people of his hometown that God's love included gentiles as well as Jews. Their only response was to rise up in anger and drive him out of town.

He tried to teach the elders of Israel that God was chiefly concerned with human welfare, the physical and spiritual needs of people. But they continued to insist that the primary thing was the meticulous observance of the Sabbath. They heard him with their ears. But their minds were so closed and their hearts were so hard that his truth could not get inside of them.

His own disciples suffered from the same type of deafness. They listened to his truth without hearing it. He had taught them over and over again that service is the only true measure of greatness. Their spiritual deafness would not allow them to believe that he was going to climb the cross. Eventually, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, they finally heard the depth of his message.

Jesus ended the Sermon on the Mount like this: "Anyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like a wife man who built his house on rock. When the rainy season set in, the torrents came and buffeted his house; but it did not collapse."

Why? Because they truly heard the truth and lived it. Let us remember the quote, "Let everyone heed what he hears."