“Jesus put his finger into the man’s ears ... and said, “Ephphatha” [be opened]! Immediately the man’s ears were opened.
A farmer from Salina, Kansas decided to visit an old high school buddy who lived in New York City. It was the farmer’s first visit to New York, and he was overwhelmed by the noise and hectic pace of the city. As the two friends were wending their way down Fifth Avenue through the crowded streets and busy traffic, suddenly the farmer stopped and said, “Hey! I hear a cricket.” “You’ve got to be kidding,” said his friend. “Even if there were a cricket, how could you possibly hear it over all this noise?” The farmer stood there for a few moments and then took a few steps to the corner, where there was a bush growing in a cement container. He turned over a few leaves and there, sure enough, was a cricket.
“What amazing hearing you have!” said his friend. “Not at all,” said the farmer. “Your hearing is as good as mine. We all hear what we are conditioned to hear.” At which point he pulled out of his pocket a handful of coins and let them fall to the sidewalk. When the coins hit the ground, as if on cue, about a dozen heads turned to hear what the sound was. “You see,” said the farmer, “we hear the things that are important to us. It’s all a matter of what you’re listening for.”
Hearing is more than a biological ability. It is influenced by what we value and what we believe. As Christians, we believe that God is real, that God created all and said it was good, and that God is active in our world. Yet we do not hear God’s activity around us because we have conditioned ourselves to hear something else.
We may have been hurt in love and so now our ears are conditioned to hear every rustle of rejection and negativity, rather than the voices affirming us and inviting us to new possibilities. We might be very successful, financially and yet, at the same time, we are deaf to those who look to us for compassion. We may have experienced the death of a loved one and the sound of our emptiness is so amplified that it drowns out the voices of those still loving us.
In our time, it is easy to be tainted by fear and worry as a pandemic continues to claim more lives and as we approach another anniversary of 9/11. The stream of bad news from a persistent virus and the threat of more acts of violence blot out any good news.
This is why Jesus in Sunday’s gospel says to the deaf man, “Be opened.” We are that deaf man standing before Jesus. As people of faith there are good things that we are not hearing. We need to believe that God will open us and remove our deafness. If a farmer can hear a cricket in New York City, then certainly we should be able to hear the voice of God in our lives today. Be open!