Monday, September 25, 2017

The gift of deafness

Tucked into today’s gospel is a command that can easily be overlooked. While we are focused on not hiding the light, the well known part of today’s gospel we can miss the simple command

Be careful how you hear.

Like many people I took normal hearing for gratntd. Even though I had worked with deaf people over the years, I now see that I had no real appreciation for the challenges.  For example, in my ignorance I thought that deafness meant living in silence. The constant roar of tenitis in my deaf ear means my world is never quiet. And I can also look back now and see how I did not use the gift wisely. 

The simple truth is that we human beings cannot focus on more than one thing at a time. This often makes it hard for us to listen, to truly hear what another person is saying. We listen up to a point, and then an idea pops into our heads, perhaps a response or a reaction to what the person is saying. The minute we turn our attention to that idea, we are no longer listening. We may have enough self control not to interrupt, but that does not mean we are listening. 

It has been less than four months but I can already begin to see how joining in world of the Single-Sided Deaf (as it is called) has been a gift. It has forced me to pay attention. Even with the hearing-aids I have to focus if I am going to hear what someone else is saying. If my attention wanders, I lose the words. But this is not a bad thing at all. It forces me to listen, then process, then respond.  As I see it, it cannot but make me a better person, and certainly a better priest. 

Even partial hearing is a tremendous gift that we should never take for granted. Like all gifts from God, it uses be used with the greatest care. Today’s gospel offers each of us the opportunity to pay attention throughout this day to how well we use this gift. In order to hear, we much choose to listen. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Day 25

When most  Catholics think of the church, they think of either the Vatican or their parish. This weekend we will mark one month with a Vacant See. This time without a bishop can be a time when we reflect on our understanding of what might be called the intermediate church. 

Interestingly when our theology uses the term local church or particular church, it is not referring to the parish but the diocese or an equivalent structure. A pariah is a "community" or a "part" but it is never called "church." In our creed we proclaim a Church that is "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic." It is the bishop who in a unique way preserves the unity and apostolic nature of the Church. Without a bishop seven sacraments are not possible. Yes, if a diocese is without a bishop you can bring one in to ordain, but this is never to be seen as normal or normative. The norm remains that a bishop of a diocese should ordain priests and deacons who assist him in ministering to the people of the diocese. 

In this time known as a vacant see that the Church calls priests to offer the mass "For the election of a pope or bishop." The word election can be confusing particularly because we do not in the modern sense elect or bishop. We use the word "election" because in Latin it refers not to ballots and votes but to choosing and being chosen. We use the word election in the same way in the RCIA. We pray for the 'election" and we will call him "bishop-elect" until he is installed,  becuause he has been chosen, by the Pope and by the Holy Sprirt who we believe still guides the Church. 

It is easy for any of us to slip into a very narrow vision of church, to see the diocese as merely bureaucracy. Perhaps in these days when we are without a bishop, it is not only a time for us to pray for the one who will be chosen, but also for us to deepen our understanding of what it means to be part of a diocese and what it means to have a bishop. Perphaps now would be a good time for all of us to read at least the first few paragraphs of Christus Dominus the Vatican II document on the role of a bishop. Jesus  not only calls us to be individually disciples but we are called to be one Church.