Tuesday, 3 August 2010


"They have ears but cannot hear"
(Psalm 115. 6)

With these words Holy Scripture mocks pagan wooden idols. But deafness is no joke. Nor are those who are unable to hear to be despised.

When I wrote this piece I'd just experienced almost total deafness, which had taken me completely by surprise, even though my hearing had been gradually getting worse. I don't want to turn my problem into a major tragedy, especially since, thanks to de-waxing and a hearing aid, I can now hear the pattering of rain, and the whispering of people who would certainly have kept quiet if they'd realized I could now clearly hear what they were saying about me! Much to my relief, during my deaf period earphones had enabled me to listen to the radio and TV. But it was really distressing that my deafness prevented me from taking part in conversations. That, I found, made me feel very isolated and lonely.

My brief experience of almost total deafness gave me a hint of what it must be like for those who have never been able to hear anything at all. They spend their lives in a completely silent world, unable to hear the sound of voices, the song of birds, the beauty of music. They are deaf to warning signals, such as fire alarms, which would protect them from danger. When a member of my community came into my room to borrow some keys I didn't hear him knock on my door. His unexpectedly tapping the back of my shoulder to announce his presence made me jump up with fear.

Oh, I realize the deaf can learn sign language and lip reading. Although these skills are a great aid to communication they are but a poor substitute for the joy of really hearing a sound. But until I lost my hearing I hadn't realised how isolated deafness can make us; how much we take our hearing for granted -until we lose it.

When Jesus cured the deaf He not only restored their ability to hear the sounds of daily life, but also enabled them to get involved in conversations and discussions. Jesus broke down their isolation and enriched the whole quality of their lives. Such healing miracles are certainly powerful signs of the way the gift of faith opens our ears to the word of God, so that we can hear His voice and communicate with Him.

During my deafness I was really surprised that while I couldn't hear other people speaking I could still hear my own voice. How or why I don't know. This unsuspected blessing gave me the confidence to continue to say Mass and to preach. But if someone had heckled my sermon I wouldn't have heard him!

Being able to hear my own voice, but not other people's, got me thinking. Forget my temporary deafness. Before that occurred was I not so fond of the sound of my own voice that I didn't hear and listen to other people? And worse still, when I pray do I not go in for far too much talking without giving God a chance to get a word in edge-ways? In so doing, I deprive myself of hearing what He and they have to say to me. We, who are hard of hearing do tend to monopolize conversations so that we can control the situation and don't become isolated!

So, I realized that as I asked God to restore my physical hearing and strengthen my faith I also needed to ask Him to enable me to be quiet and listen to other people and to God Himself. I also need to realize that there's a vast difference between casually hearing and really listening, and by that I mean giving someone our undivided attention and actually heeding what he says.

I must meet God in the quietness of attentively listening to Him. Only in such silence can I hear what He is saying to me in ways which transcend physical sound. Perhaps God wanted my temporary deafness to teach me the value of silence, and most certainly to appreciate the wonder of being able to hear and listen once more.

Isidore O.P.
Next week Peter will Meet God in a Rag Doll

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