Regardless of how it comes about, the tragedy of spiritual deafness is that connection is broken. We can no longer hear the voice of God. We can no longer hear the voice of the people in our lives. It seems that the only voices we hear are the ones in our heads. The only conversation we have is with our self. Such spiritual deafness is ego-centered. When we are spiritually deaf, we assume that ours is the only, or the most important, voice to hear. We end up cut off from God and others, and progressively closed to new ideas, understandings, and experiences. This is one way of understanding “hardness of heart.” Closed to new ways of thinking, behaving, and relating, we continue business as usual and nothing ever changes. Sadly, that makes for a lonely, isolated, miserable existence. How different our daily experience would be if we let nothing go by without being open to being nourished by the inner meaning of that event in life!
Spiritual deafness is one of the primary causes of conflict in our relationships with one another, within our communities and families, within our nation and world. It’s not hard to see how deafness of the heart destroys relationships.
We are deaf when we become self-preoccupied, self-referential and refuse to forgive. We are deaf when we are too busy to really listen and be present. We are deaf to the teaching of Jesus when judgment triumphs over mercy, and indifference rather than compassion and love defines our relationship with our neighbor. We are deaf to God’s presence when we refuse to be still, quiet, and listen.
Deafness abounds all around us and within us. The media today gives plenty of evidence that talking heads are a dime a dozen, but listening hearts are few and far between. So what about us? We all can admit to having poor “connections” in at least some of our relationships. What, then, are the places in which we are closed? Where is our life disconnected? To whom or to what are we deaf? And what can we do about it?
According to the Gospel, the cure for our deafness is not “to hear” but “to be opened.” Hearing follows openness. “Ephphatha!” That’s what Jesus tells the deaf man. He says the same thing to you and me. Jesus is always saying “Ephphatha!” to the closed parts of our lives, so that he might dwell in us. “Ephphatha!” is Jesus’ prayer to God, his commandment to the deaf man, and his longing for each and every one of us.
Photograph by Brother Daniel. Reflection by Father Dominic.