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Jesus’ “Eary” Warning


“I was music, but you had your ears cut off.” ~ Rupi Kaur

Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear,” says Jesus in the early stages of today’s Gospel, leaving a scant few with any excuse when they stand before him in final judgement and are asked why they didn’t heed the words contained in Mark 4:21-25. Perhaps Vincent Van Gogh is off the hook by virtue of our Savior’s use of the plural ears. But I must say that every time I encounter this passage, or for that matter anytime Jesus gave this warning, which he did from time to time throughout Scripture (Matthew 11:15, Mark 4:9), I’m reminded of a joke that my grandmother was very fond of telling. It went something like this:

There was a highly feared Mafia Don named Frankie whose wife gave birth to their first son. As fate would have it, the young boy was born without ears. Frankie’s wife Violet said to him “Our poor son is gonna be the object of teasing and ridicule his whole life.” Frankie responds angrily “Anybody who teases my boy is gonna have to deal with ME!” The time comes for their son’s christening, for which Frankie and his wife throw a huge party. The first guest approaches the couple at the reception after the baptism and exclaims “What a handsome boy! Frankie, he’s got your good looks.” Beaming with pride, Frankie says “Thank you, thank you!” The second guest approaches and in similar fashion remarks “Frankie, congratulations on the birth of your boy. Wow, he’s got Violet’s stunning smile!” Once again, Frankie basks in the glow of what is starting to become an unending string of compliments. As the afternoon unfolds, Frankie’s “business associate” Sal finally approaches in reluctant fashion and says “Hey Frankie, what a good lookin’ kid, God bless him. But how are his eyes? I sure hope he doesn’t grow up to have any vision problems.” Confused, Frankie says “Why’s that Sally?” Sal responds “Because he’s gonna gave one heckuva time wearing glasses.”

.....I never said it as a good joke; only that she told it all the time.

Our youthful protagonist aside, virtually everyone has ears. So what’s going on here? Why would Jesus repeatedly issue this “eary” warning? It’s interesting to note that similar phrasing is found in the Book of Revelation, appearing in each of the seven letters to the churches: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 11,17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). It‘s used in Revelation 13:9 as well, where we read the words “Whoever has ears, let them hear” immediately on the heels of John’s description of The Antichrist. This is a call to each of to seek God’s wisdom concerning what’s written

How do we develop ears for Jesus? Our sense of hearing is, in many respects, a very unique gift. Our eyes for instance can choose where to look, but our ears can't always choose where to listen. Gossip, false witness, and vitriolic discourse, among other things, fill our airwaves. They serve as the “secular wax” that can block the sound of Jesus’ truth. This is why the cultivation of wisdom, discernment, and self control is so vital. Priests will tell you that they can literally “hear” suffering in the Confessional. This is the toll that vice and sin takes on the soul. But of course no sin is greater then God’s mercy and forgiveness, which is precisely why the prudent Catholic partakes of this Sacrament frequently. Once contrition has been made and absolution offered, our spiritual ears are cleared of the secular wax of sin, this troublesome blockage which muffles and at times even severs the transformative Gospel message. Yes, repentance is always a common denominator for all those who ardently desire to attune their ears to Jesus’ voice.

In matters pertaining to repentance, I’m drawn to the words in today’s 1st Reading (Hebrews 10:19-25) wherein our author says “Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy.” (10:23). Next week we will look in as Jesus commissions the Twelve Apostles (Mark 6:7-14), sending them out in pairs with the transformative and challenging edict to preach repentance. This was not what the people wanted to hear, but Jesus knew that it was precisely what they needed to hear. He could not give his beloved flock a watered-down version of the truth; he loved them too much for that.

The Word of God always awaits our hearing. Scripture is forever readily available to us, if only we looked up from our iPhones or put down the remote control and picked up a Bible. While shopping for a car last week, my salesmen was surprised to hear that Catholic Mass is celebrated every day. “I thought Church was just a Sunday thing” he said to me. How lucky we are that we can encounter Jesus in the Eucharist every day. In case you’re wondering, he did put me in an ocean blue Kia Seltos. I on the other hand was unable to enroll him in RCIA Classes. Not yet anyway. I recall the words of noted Christian Evangelical Author Priscilla Shirer who notes “Having your spiritual radar up in constant anticipation of God’s presence - even in the midst of the joyful chaos and regular rhythms of your everyday living - is paramount in hearing God, because sometimes the place and manner you find Him is the least spectacular you'd expect.”

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“For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.” (Mark 4:22). These words from Jesus speak to His desire to reveal himself to us in dynamic and limitless ways. But it takes a willingness on our part to be challenged and changed. While the way of God’s truth is not the easiest path, we can be assured that it the best path (John 1:4; 10:9, 14:6).

I leave you with a quote from Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who always urged those she encountered to “Listen in silence. Because if your heart is filled with other things you cannot her at the voice of God.”

....and anyone who has ears to hear needs to hear the voice of God.

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