From today's readings: "You shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD! And whether they heed or resist-for they are a rebellious house- they shall know that a prophet has been among them.... Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for His mercy.... My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.... A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house."
All parents have observed in their children the phenomenon of "selective hearing." For, when the call goes out, "Dessert time!" all the kids, no matter how far away, come running immediately, because their sharp ears have picked up the good news. On the other hand, if the announcement is "Time to get started on chores!" or "Bedtime now!" it's amazing how often the message simply fails to register, and if threatened with punishment for disobedience, the child will protest, "I just didn't hear you!"
Parents have different strategies for addressing the problem of "selective hearing," but no one seems to have yet discovered a sure remedy for that malady. In fact, if they're honest, parents might have the courage to admit to their own bouts of "selective hearing," such as when a spouse voices an untimely inquiry in the middle of an engrossing TV show, or one of the kids raises a natural but embarrassing question, or the adult's parents hint at broaching a delicate subject that was ostensibly settled long ago.
Upon investigation, it's clear that "selective hearing" goes all the way back to Original Sin, for after the Fall, when Adam and Eve first heard the voice of God approaching, they hid themselves, evidently hoping to just quietly lie low for awhile, so that maybe God would just pass them by without any awkward questions about what they had eaten for lunch.
But God refused to let His children get away with their "selective hearing," and so He did get the message through to Adam and Eve about their new chores and dolors, and the definitive bedtime of their earthly life.
Unfortunately, though, all sons of Adam and daughters of Eve have inherited that tragic trait of "selective hearing," not just when listening to one another, but especially when listening to God. For written between the lines (or sometimes even spelled out explicitly!) on nearly every page of the Bible is the repeated message from the heavenly Father: "You know, I've told you this before already. Try listening more closely this time! Once again, I'm going to make Myself crystal clear to you. I'm only telling you these things for your own benefit, so it's to your own advantage to listen up and obey what I say!"
The prophet Ezekiel, for instance, was warned that people to whom he was sent were not just hard of hearing, but "hard of face and obstinate of heart." But whether the rebellious house heeded or resisted, they would know that a true prophet had come among them, shouting the Word of the Lord so loudly and clearly that no one could pretend any longer not to have heard.
Even St. Paul, with his abundance of divine revelations, found it hard to hear the Lord's answer about the thorn in his flesh. Three times he begged the Lord about it, until finally God's repeated reply started to sink in, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness!"
In that little town of Nazareth, when Jesus preached in the synagogue, the start of His word at least was heard: His wisdom, His miracles, His charisma. Oh yes, the townsfolk managed to hear about all of that, but in the end, they decided that they themselves were older and wiser than that "Jesus of Nazareth," who couldn't possibly have anything worthwhile to teach them that they didn't already know about.
If we're honest, all of us, children and adults, men and women, sinners and saints, might have the courage to admit to our own bouts of "selective hearing," especially when it comes to the Word of the Lord. Whenever He adverts to heavenly desserts, our ears perk up, for we presume that our own "above average" conduct in His household has surely entitled us to a permanent place at the table. But when He mentions anything about Hell and its just deserts for those who ignore Him, our "selective hearing" assures us that such dire warnings must, of course, be intended for someone else.
Did you hear anything I just said?