Several years ago the Washington Post conducted an experiment in which a world-renowned violinist, Joshua Bell, was commissioned to play his $4,000,000 Stradivarius violin in a subway station in Washington D.C. He dressed himself like a street person and sat on the cold concrete floor of the station with a hat at his feet and began playing. He continued for some 45 minutes. The entire event was recorded by a well-hidden video camera.
Nearly 1100 people passed by during those minutes. Joshua Bell collected $32.17 in tips plus another $20 from the one person who recognized him! I guess those other 1099 people either had a poorly developed sense of hearing or they didn’t know what to listen for, at least not in the world of music.
In today’s Gospel Jesus healed a man who was deaf. What a gift Jesus gave him! He was suddenly able to learn to listen, how to recognize sounds of imminent danger, for example, not only to recognize words, but nuances in tone of voice, to recognize sounds of nature, birds singing, children laughing and squealing with delight at play.
We who are blessed from birth with hearing, yet we are sometimes not good listeners. We hear but we do not listen. Children often do not listen to parents and teachers and vice versa. Husbands sometimes do not listen to their wives (Just ask Fran!) and vice versa (Just ask me!) And we all too frequently do not listen to God when we gather on Sunday to hear His word. But we may not listen or we may not listen well.
One reason why we hear Scripture over and over is that each time we may hear something a little different: same words, same story, but Scripture speaks to us in different ways at different times and in different circumstances. God speaks to us in whispers rather than in shouts. He speaks to us in gentle words rather than in thunder. He speaks to us in thoughts more than in words. It is worthwhile for us to listen well, to pray over and about the word of God, to pray for understanding.
Such a wonderful gift, the gift of hearing. A greater gift is the gift we receive when we listen!