Cleaning the Peanut Butter from our Spiritual Ears

-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.

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Local Seminarian May Be One of the Miracles Required for Vietnamese Cardinal’s Beatification

St. John Vianney Seminarian, Joseph (“Huy”)Nguyen knows what it feels like to be dead. Recently, Nguyen, who is a good friend of the Catholic Biblical School, carried his own voided death certificate to Rome to present it as potential evidence toward the future canonization of Vietnamese Cardinal Francios Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, who appeared to the seminarian twice during his 32 days in a coma last year.

You can read his beautiful full story here.

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Pope Unveils Historic Document on Scripture in the Life of the Church

Last week, the Vatican released a document which some are calling the most important document on Scripture since Vatican II. The Holy Father issued it as a follow-up to the bishop’s synod on Scripture which was held back in 2008.

At some 200 pages, the Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Verbum Domini” on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church is weighty but profound writing on a topic obviously near and dear to the heart of the Biblical School. Expect a lot of discussion about this document here and in the larger Church in the weeks and months to come. You can read the document here.

Also, be sure to check out the excellent commentary on the document by the professors over at the Sacred Page blog.

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Seeing the Spiritually Blind

-By Derek Barr

In the first of our series on the spiritually disabled, we look at the spiritually blind.  The spiritually blind hear the truth, but they cannot see what it means.  They cannot see the “big picture” of salvation and are unable to see how it applies in their own life.  They have trouble confessing the truth because they have difficulty believing what they cannot see.  They are always in fear of an attack because they dwell in darkness, and naturally, anyone moving in their darkness may be met with aggressive resistance.  The fear of the spiritually blind brings on a violent response when they are exposed to the bright penetrating light of truth.  They cannot see the light of the truth; although it enters their eyes and travels to their souls, their hearts have hardened to it and can be further hardened by the heat and light of it.  “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” Eph 4:18

Modern atheism is evidence to this as it has turned from passive non-belief to radical aggressive action, attacking anything and anyone who professes to have faith as a threat.   Nearly fifty percent of people murdered since recorded history began have been murdered in the last 100 years in the name of atheism (Communist and Nazi Regimes), not to mention the number of abortions that have occurred through atheistic policy (this according to, Just How Many People Has Religion Killed? Kirk Durston, National Director, New Scholars Society).  

Those who aggressively reject the truth, who claim there is no truth to what they cannot see, can become tiresome and a burden to those around them.  The temptation is strong to cut all ties to them and allow them to wallow in their darkness, or even to return evilness in kind.  In Leviticus 19:14 the Children of Israel are specifically charged not to put a stumbling block before the blind, but are to fear the Lord.  To fear the Lord is to be faithful to His Commandments.  We can take this as instruction in how we are to respond to the spiritually blind, not with aggressiveness or hate, but through love, to love them as Christ has loved us even in the face of great difficulty or tumult. 

How are we to deal with those who reject the truth because they cannot see it?  In Isaiah 42:6 The Lord reminds us that we are called in righteousness to be a light to the nations, “to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”  It is through faithfulness to the Lord and his Word that we become a light to those who are blind.  We cannot force them to see, but we rely on the Lord to make us shine a light that will bring sight to them.

In the Gospels, we see Jesus take a special interest in healing the blind.  In fact, Jesus heals more blind people than any other infirmity.  We learn that spiritual blindness comes from having a hardness of heart; this was the main problem with the Pharisees as evidenced by Matthew 23.  They could not see the Truth although He was standing right in front of them.  Blindness seems, in John 9:32, to be one of the most difficult infirmities to cure as it was never seen to have happened since the world began.  Spiritual blindness can be just as difficult to cure because it relies upon a change of heart, a softening of the heart, which can only occur through miraculous intervention of the Lord.    “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.” Matthew 13:15   Thanks be to God that he specializes in healing hearts and opening the eyes.

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Biblical School Instructors make Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity to the Church

Yesterday, on the feast day of St. Leo the Great, the instructors at the Denver Catholic Biblical School made their Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity to the Catholic Church. The oath and profession were received by Msgr. Michael Glenn, rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary–the parent institution of the Biblical and Catechetical Schools–in the name of Archbishop Charles Chaput.

While this was not originally a requirement of the Biblical School, the instructors decided last spring to make this a part of the our annual teaching life. Taking the profession and oath essentially say that a person will uphold and teach the beliefs of the Church and always stand in unity and due submission to the teaching authority of the Church–namely the Pope and the bishops. As we instructors see it, we are simply promising to be good and faithful teachers of the Catholic faith. 

In 1989, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) issued a decree asking Catholic colleges and Universities to profess their adherence to the Catholic Church in the teaching of faith and morals. Many Catholic institutions took up the challenge, while many did not. In taking the oath and profession of our own volition, the Biblical School hopes to show the Catholic world what joy and life can be found in freely uniting oneself to Christ and His Church. 

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Gospel Healings: Insight for the Spiritually Disabled

By Derek Barr

Have you ever wondered why sometimes it is so difficult to follow the Lord?  But in reality, is it the Lord–perfect in all things–that is difficult, or is it our own fallen nature that makes it difficult to follow his perfection?  The truth is that we cannot follow the Lord without His Divine help.  We want to begin a series of posts that deal with this difficulty and how we might find help from the Lord to heal us so that we can truly be disciples who follow the Lord without our maladies getting into the way of the Kingdom.  I began to think about all those in the Gospels who were called in some way to follow Jesus, but were hampered by illness, disabilities, or even death.  There were many different kinds of ailments that we see adversely effecting people in the Gospels.  However, Jesus heals every one of them for those who have faith, either their own (e.g. the hemorrhaging woman in Mark 5:34) or the faith of others interceding for them (e.g. the paralytic in Mark 2:5).

In prayerfully preparing my lessons this year, I began to notice some very real connections between the diseases, disabilities, demonic possessions, and deaths that Jesus healed, and the current spiritual ailments that prevent many people from following Jesus and entering the Kingdom of God.  I want to be clear that in a literal sense, Jesus really did heal the people of the Gospels from real diseases; he really cast out demons, and he raised people from the dead. But there is also an allegorical and moral sense to Scripture.  The people who were healed also represent people in our society today that suffer from spiritual ailments, which are as real as physical ailments, but less visible to the naked eye.  Physical ailments will not keep anyone from being joined one day in eternity with Jesus, but spiritual disease can and does lead to spiritual death and eternal separation.  With this in mind, I started to look at each disease and ailment that Jesus healed in the Gospels and sought insight as to what type of spiritual hindrance they represented.  I was amazed how fruitful this exercise was.  I began to meditate on the blind, then the deaf, and soon I was looking at all of those who Jesus healed and found they all had spiritual modern-day counterparts.  In this study I looked at the blind, the deaf, the mute, the lame, the demoniacs, the lepers, the dead, the man with the withered hand, and the hemorrhaging woman.  There may be others that would be worth further analysis, like the epileptics, but I focused on these.

Over the next several weeks, I hope to discuss each one of these ailments and Jesus’ healing of it.  Jesus is the solution to all of these maladies preventing one from entering the kingdom of God.  If we can understand these spiritual hindrances and how Jesus heals them, we may be better able to be the salt and the light of the world and to bring ourselves and others closer to Jesus and our journey along the way with Him. The first of these maladies that we will look at next week is the blind in the Gospels, and those that are blind to the Truth.

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St. Jude on our times

Today is the feast of St. Jude Thaddeus, one of the twelve apostles who followed Jesus during his earthly ministry and the patron Saint of lost causes. Tradition states that he was martyred in Armenia during Persian rule. In fact, Armenian Christians look to him as one of their founders. He is also author of one of the most forgotten books in the New Testament, the epistle which bears his name. This is a pity because the Letter of Jude has much to teach us about being Christian witnesses in the midst of difficult situations and an often hostile culture. Here is what St. Jude has to tell us:

“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; they said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers following their own ungodly passions. It is these who will set up divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And convince some, by snatching them out of the fire; on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 17-23).

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