A great philosophical debate started a few centuries ago when someone asked: “If a tree falls in a forest but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Earthbound scientists thought that was an easy one, saying, “The falling of the tree or any other disturbance will produce vibration of the air, so if there be no ears to hear, there will be no sound.”
People of faith also believe this question is easy. They might say, the Creator always lends his ear to the happenings of his creation, even if humanity remains oblivious.”
The more important philosophical question for humanity is, “If the Lord sends his word throughout the world, and no one hears it, did He say anything?”
Jesus himself tackles that question in this Sunday’s gospel reading from Mark (Mk 13:24-32):
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Jesus made sure of that by planting his words like seedlings in the hearts of his disciples who then scattered seeds of faith throughout the world. Their words took root and provide a constant canopy of protective shelter for whoever chooses to listen. And when mortality finally claims the body of the faithful, their spirit lives on because they kept God’s words of wisdom sounding from the tabernacle of their hearts—and their echo will remain as a living legacy to their loved ones.
The prophet Daniel was one of the early hearers of God’s words and in our first reading (Dn 12:1-3) he tells how those words will continue to be heard until the end of time—and beyond:
“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”
In Sunday’s gospel reading, Jesus says “This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” So the big philosophical question for us becomes, “And then what?”
Our second reading from the Book of Hebrews (Heb 10:11-14, 18) says of Jesus, “This one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool. For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated. Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin.”
The Words of God were destined to fall on the ears of the faithful and consecrate them. All who listen can be sure that even if one of them should fall in the wilderness, and no one else is around to hear, their prayers will make a mighty sound in God’s ear.