In a homily given in September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on a miracle described in the gospel of Mark (7:31-34). Jesus healed a man born deaf and mute. Pope Benedict XVI gave some poignant reflections that I think are important for us all to contemplate during this Lenten season.
Benedict XVI pointed out that too often we are all like this man who was deaf and mute. We do not have a physical disability but something worse – a spiritual disability of deafness and muteness. He said that where God is concerned too many of us have a “hardness of hearing”. He said, “Put simply, we are no longer able to hear God — there are too many different frequencies filling our ears. What is said about God strikes us as pre-scientific, no longer suited to our age.” Today we have so many voices filling our minds and all have their own theories and opinions. Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes, whether in interviews or when receiving awards, take many opportunities to express their views to the world because they know people listen to them despite not being experts on subjects discussed. The news media convinces us that they are reliable sources for the truth. College professors, scientists and book authors try to add their thoughts and discoveries. We can look in all directions and find someone trying to convince us of their viewpoints. They talk and we usually listen. But how many of us look UP to find the truth – look up to God? God is speaking to us in many ways as well, often showing us in what ways many of these worldly opinions are false. But do we hear Him? As Benedict XVI points out, too often we either do not listen to God or we can’t hear Him because too many other “frequencies” distract us.
With all the noise of the world, not only do we have a deafness where God is concerned but Benedict XVI also points out that we have lost our ability to have a conversation with God. We are deaf AND mute.
The result of being deaf and mute spiritually is that our perception of reality is weakened. If our lives are not theocentric – which means having God at the center (“theo” is God, “centric” is center) – all of our endeavors will be without a foundation. Everything we learn from science, sociology, history, psychology, morality and the rest will be distorted in same way if we deny or minimize God. If celebrities, athletes, politicians, scientists and bloggers express opinions that are God-less, they will fall short to some degree of expressing truth.
Are we living in a theocentric way? How many different frequencies in the world are distracting us from God? How many hours do we spend watching TV or movies, reading the Internet on our phones and computers, reading blogs and Twitter and Facebook and Instagram? How much do these things consume our lives? Let us seriously evaluate our habits. A recent survey of US adults in 2013 showed that digital media was used 5 hours each day on average and 4 hours a day on average were spent watching TV. Now compare this to how much time is spent in prayer or giving worship and Praise to God. Various studies have been done and have remained stable the past ten years. Approximately 38% of Americans go to some form of church service ONCE a week. Which means 62% go less or not at all. These are generalizations but it is still shocking – the majority give less than ONE hour a week for God in worship while giving 40+ hours per week to media and entertainment. (I did not add in daily prayer BUT even if I am optimistic and say that the average person prays ONE hour a day, that is still ONLY a total of 8 hours per week for God). This is evidence of the disillusionment we are living in!
Pope Benedict XVI is emphasizing the call from the Gospels to recognize the reality that too often we are deaf and mute. We must acknowledge out spiritual disabilities and then we must turn to Christ who can heal us. Christ’s healing comes from His gift of grace. Grace is the supernatural power that can transform us if we are open to receiving it and cooperate with it in our lives.
The world will continue on its way but we are not to conform to the world but to be transformed by grace. And the world will still try to convince us that all this “fuss about God” is unnecessary. The world will tell us that even without God life still goes on as usual. It may seem so but does life really go on as usual without God? And more importantly, is THIS life what we should be most concerned about? The reality is, without God, our eternity will be spent experiencing something far removed from God, who is truly life itself. This Lent let us turn off those worldly frequencies that too often distract us and truly listen to God in His Word and turn to Him more often in prayer.
Reference – Homily Pope Benedict XVI, 9/10/2006: http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/homilies/2006/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20060910_neue-messe-munich.html