by Catherine Andreadis
This special youth submission was originally a speech delivered at the 2018 St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival hosted by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The speech was delivered in response to the prompt: “Christ said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:9). The Lord said this with reference to the way we hear the word of God. What is our response?”
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Obviously, it is quite easy to identify the source of irony in this quote: We all have ears don’t we? So we should all be able to hear the word of God. This is often on the contrary, as today more so than ever it is harder to hear and revel in God’s word cogently. In order for us to be able to soak in Jesus’ teachings to the same extent as devout followers were able to thousands of years ago, we must be all the more aware and committed. We live in a world full of seemingly endless knowledge and opinions that have the potential to distract us from God’s simple message, while in Christ’s time, there was a seemingly definite wrong and right (in other words, the existence of a gray zone was negligible). It is harder for us to hear God’s word with the same conviction because our minds are so cluttered with the noise of physical society. That’s not to say that knowledge is bad—much of human discovery has allowed us to understand the world more complexly—but we have to change the way we think and hear the word of God in order for it to resonate with us.
God’s word is universal, both in its meaning and its adaptability, which has allowed for its longevity. It is this quality of the word of God that allows it to change in its delivery as society transforms—from one that was barren of technology to one that is supersaturated with technology. It is not enough anymore for anyone to simply hear the word of God for it to make an impact. Our attention spans rival that of a flea with the amount of information flying at us every second of the day—whether that be in our personal lives or actual intelligent information. For the 21st century “hearing” the word of God must be a more immersive experience in order to capture it. Since we live in a world of constant distraction and our time alone with our thoughts seems frightening and intimidating; we must see God’s teachings in action or engage in Christian acts in order for his message to resonate. As Immanuel Kant reasoned, we lack a consciousness because we are unable to think for ourselves. A consciousness only emerges with awareness, and in this case, we must be aware of the malaise of blindness we’ve contracted to see past it and to hear the word of God.
Our aversion to hearing the word of God is also due to the seemingly herculean task that it is made out to be. The word of God is simple: love one another, help those in need, and lead a selfless life. Once it starts to be gussied up for the sake of creating intellectual depth, its simplicity is corrupted to the point of pretentiousness (which is the very opposite of what God teaches us). If we keep this in mind, approaching the word of God becomes easier and more accessible, and a welcome relief from the messiness of the world around us.
Along the same lines, we cannot be forced down a certain path into hearing the word of God. We can be guided, but not made to hear the word of God in a certain way. If it is not found with our own merit and our own work, God’s word loses some of its meaning since the personal connection associated with the experience of finding it is effaced. We must seek it on our own to make it an everlasting presence in our lives, and the positive effects of finding His word will help to shine a light that is even more amplified in a seemingly bleak and foreboding world. Not only would this help people to grow in their faith by making it a personal experience, but it also allows them to grow within themselves as an individual by developing their own perspective on the faith.
Scary as it may be, we need to develop a sense of individualism and armor to the cacophony of the modern world in order to be more receptive to the word of God. Without this awareness we will remain in limbo in the sense of having difficulty of being able to hear God’s words. We need to remember his message is simple and we just need to be more aware to hear it.
Catherine Andreadis is a graduating senior from the St. Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Church in Greenlawn, NY and will be attending the Honors College at Boston University in the Fall.
Public Orthodoxy seeks to promote conversation by providing a forum for diverse perspectives on contemporary issues related to Orthodox Christianity. The positions expressed in this essay are solely the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.