Spiritual Deafness

We all have our sufferings and problems, but sometimes other people can see better than we what’s wrong with us. For example, the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus stars a music teacher and composer who finds out that his baby boy is deaf. He is stunned at the news, because he will never be able to open the world of sound to his son. The baby does not know what is wrong with him, while the loss is perceived acutely by the father. The film goes on to show that the son can still have a fulfilling life, but he is never able to make music with his father.

In some ways, our own spiritual condition is like deafness. In the original creation, Adam and Eve were made to hear God’s voice and to rejoice in His spiritual beauty. But by original sin we damaged this capacity, and the powers of our body and soul became disordered and wounded. Our first parents knew the shock of what they lost when they turned away from God, but we who grow up with the effects of sin know nothing else. We cannot properly mourn our own loss of God, because we do not know what we are missing.

When God became man, He kept this knowledge of our loss. Jesus knew not only what our nature suffered from the Fall, but what each person incurs when he or she sins. We perceive the outward effects of our sin, or perhaps some of the psychological damage it does as well. Only Jesus, who knows perfectly His own nature as God and the potential of our human nature, fully appreciates the loss of God that sin entails. In his earthly life this caused great sorrow in His soul, especially on the Cross. He mourned over each of us like His own child, and bore the consequences of our sin in order to heal us and prepare our hearts for new love.

After the sacrifice of the Cross, our situation is different. Since Jesus has restored our greatest loss and cured our spiritual deafness, we live life in a new mode. In the grace of baptism we receive God’s own life within us, and through faith we can hear the heavenly choirs summoning us home, and the whisper of the Holy Spirit directing our steps. It is easy to forget this when confronted with our daily problems and sufferings, but our consolation is that the ultimate source of these ills, disconnection from God, has been fixed. This makes it possible for us to bear our other, lesser, trials as part of the pain of putting everything back into alignment with God.

As we learn about our new capacities and how to live the Christian life in harmony with God, we also become aware of the company of musicians that we’re part of. The unity that comes from faith in the Catholic Church gives us motivation to contribute ourselves, not just listen. We can become better musicians and singers, for the sake of our neighbors and God. The training we undergo now is a direct preparation for what we will do in heaven: sing in praise of God. We can take a word of encouragement from St. Ignatius of Antioch, who said to the Church in Ephesus: “In your harmony of mind and heart the song you sing is Jesus Christ. Every one of you should form a choir, so that, in harmony of sound through harmony of hearts, and in unity taking the note from God, you may sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father.”

Image: Gentileschi and Lanfranco, Saint Cecilia and an Angel 

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Br. Norbert Keliher entered the Order of Preachers in 2012. He is a graduate of Harvard University, where he studied Latin and Greek. Before entering the order, he spent a year teaching in New York City and a year studying theology at Notre Dame.On DominicanFriars.org