-By Derek Barr
One of my favorite gifts that I received as a child for Christmas was a citizens band radio (CB radio). I grew up in an era where over-the-road truckers were trendy. They were glorified by movies such as Smokey and the Bandit, television shows such as BJ and the Bear, and by various pop and country songs such as “Convoy” and “Teddy Bear”. They even had their own language with which they spoke to one another over the CB radio, using slang terms to communicate. As a young child, I would listen to this strange language over my CB and would take slang literally, as a child will often do. I was struck by the term “Do you have peanut butter in your ears?” used when someone would not answer their call sign or handle. I remember wondering about that vivid imagery and could not imagine someone putting peanut butter or anything else in their ears to keep from hearing.
However, some of us do this very thing to our spiritual ears; we do everything in our power not to hear the truth, although we might be able to see it. The spiritually deaf can see the truth, they can see the big picture of their salvation and how they fit into it, but their ears are paralyzed from hearing the truth. The truth is so opposed to their self vision or life experience that they shut it out of their lives. They prefer to live in silence because it is more peaceful to them than the piercing pain of reality– the reality that their life view or their own personal individual beliefs might be wrong; the reality that there is a Truth; the reality that that Truth is convicting.
An example might be the active young couple who attends Mass weekly, volunteers for the poor, and tries to walk a good life in general, but just can’t fathom the inconvenience of having a child so they use birth control. They do everything in their power to avoid any teaching or literature that deals with the subject of birth control because they feel the less they know about it, the less accountable they are. They know that the Church speaks against it, but they put a deaf ear to it because it is inconvenient and maybe even painful to listen. Or, it might be the middle-aged man who heard in the 9th grade from a catechist that Confession was optional and unnecessary, that it was not a rule from God but only the Church, and he need only to privately confess his sins to God for forgiveness. He refuses to hear any teaching of the Church on the importance and necessity of the Sacrament of Reconciliation because, if he does, he might have to actually go. He holds the belief that if he does not know for sure that Reconciliation is necessary, God will not hold him accountable for not going.
Both of these are examples of self-deception; both parties can see the truth, but they prefer not to hear it in order to remain in silence. The cause of deafness in both of these examples, as is for spiritual blindness, is a hard head and a stubborn heart, as we learn in Ezekiel 3:7. They are a prisoner of the lies that they have told themselves. They do not trust that God has their best interest in His heart by giving us life and the sacraments. They do not believe that it is for their own good and from a loving Father. They would like to believe that they know better than the Creator of the Universe on what is best for their own self-interest. Many today try to reduce everything divine from Scripture into something merely human— less hard to hear— as we are told by Pope Benedict XVI in his new document, Verbum Domini n.34 “…whenever a divine element seems present, it has to be explained in some other way, reducing everything to the human element… Such a position can only prove harmful to the life of the Church, casting doubt over fundamental mysteries of Christianity and their historicity—as, for example, the institution of the Eucharist and the resurrection of Christ.”
Jesus faced this problem with his own disciples in John 6:60 when He was explaining eating His Body and drinking His Blood to them. They replied “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” In Jesus’ response to them in 6:63 he tells them, “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” The Magisterium and Teaching of our Church (through the Apostles and their successors) and our Pope, Jesus’ Al Bayit (Prime Minister), continue to speak the Words of Jesus, and they are still hard. We must accept the teachings of the Church as if they come from Jesus Himself as we are told in Luke 10:16 “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” The only way we can be free and alive is by listening to the words of Jesus, we must be freed from the spirit of deafness. I think that we can learn from Jesus’ healing of the child who was possessed by a deaf and dumb spirit. We learn from Jesus in Mark 9:29 that there is only one way to be freed from this type of spirit: through prayer and fasting. We need to cry out to Jesus and ask Him to help us in our unbelief as the father of the child did in this healing. We must strive to never put anything in our ears which keeps us from the Truth, from spirit and life.