Robert Barron on hearing and speaking the Word

Some people can hear musical notes, but they are incapable of discriminating clearly and consistently between a melody that is in tune with the accompaniment and one that is off-key. They hear “music,” but they can’t discern between relatively good and bad tones. Something similar obtains in regard to the things of the spirit. There is an awful lot of “religious” speech on offer in the culture today, but too many of us are tin-eared when it comes to telling the difference between authentic biblical religion and other varieties. The pronouncements of the pope, the speeches of the Dalai Lama, the cultural assessments offered by television evangelists, and the psychological truisms presented by avatars of the New Age can all sound vaguely “religious” or “spiritual” to those tone deaf to the nuances of religious speech.

Now the man brought to Jesus suffers, not only from deafness, but from that inevitable concomitant of deafness, the inability to speak clearly. If a person is unable properly to hear sounds, she remains incapable, obviously, of reproducing those sounds in her own speech. This physical dynamic is precisely reproduced in the spiritual order: deafness to the Word of God results in a severe incapacity to speak that Word articulately and with any convincing power. How many Catholics today can speak the Word of God with clarity and confidence? How many of us become tongue-tied when people ask us what we believe or pose a pointed question about the faith? Many Catholics complain that they feel incapable of effectively evangelizing, because they simply don’t know enough about the Scripture, theology, and the teachings of the church. This awkwardness of speech flows from the deafness just explored. … If you want to speak the Word persuasively, listen attentively!

from Word on Fire: Proclaiming the Power of Christ, (Crossroad, 2008), 219-220, 221.

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