Blog # 325 Listening and Hearing
Recently I went for an appointment with an audiologist. She works with a computer to check and adjust the cochlea implant I received a few years ago. In a small sound-proof room, the implant is tested with a series of monosyllabic words spoken on a recorder. Before receiving the implant I could not detect sound in the left ear for the past twenty years. In my recent testing the sound of the words was OK but I don't do well with the meaning of the sounds.
A few weeks ago during a period of reflection in preparation for celebrating Mass it occurred to me to apply that experience to our experience of faith. In the Gospel reading from John 6: 35 - 40 Jesus describes Himself as the "bread of life". He goes on to say that whoever believes in Him will never hunger, and also, however, that though those to whom He was speaking saw and heard Him, they did not believe. Their experience of Jesus was something like mine at the audiologist's in having the sound of words but not their meaning.
Then Jesus goes on to say that He will never reject anyone who comes to Him because that is the will of the Father for Him and for them. Just as the goal and purpose of my implant is to permit me to hear and understand words that are spoken to me, so the goal and purpose of faith is to hear and understand the message of Jesus to the world and to me.
In the test of hearing, if all who took the test had perfect hearing they would all hear and understand every word of it. We have a similar situation for all who hear and understand the message of Jesus. All answers to the question what did Jesus teach would be the same, even though they might be written in green, blue, or any other color of ink, in small print or large, with the left hand or the right, in Japanese German English or French all throughout the world. This is as it is for a first grade class in arithmetic as well as it is for a class in theology and faith. All of the children in a class would hear and understand the teacher's message that five plus seven makes twelve. But it does not always turn out that way. One child may have been absent at the time that message was given and consequently never heard it. Another child may not have been paying attention and missed it, and another may have heard it but then did not use the information for a long time and forgot it.
Applying this to faith, if we all heard and understood the will of God given us through Jesus there would be one truth for us all that defined a single Church throughout the world, one truth about 'eternal life', one truth about abortion, about marriage, one truth about the reality and meaning of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and how each of those who believed in Jesus might live out that meaning, each in his or her unique love in our everyday life of faith.
After this I was ready to pray more earnestly for the unity of the Church.