15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville
Matthew Parish, Baltimore 11:00am
The Message: Listening
This afternoon/morning I want to reflect with you on listening.
I am doing this because listening is the main point in today’s gospel. In the parable, the seed stands for the Word of God and the different types of soil represent different ways that we may or may not listen.
I am also focusing on listening because I think our culture has a problem with this. In recent years, I have become very sensitive to the fact that we often don’t really listen to one another.
Often we interrupt others when they are speaking. We can probably see this played out in our personal experience and I know for sure that we see it on TV and in the public life of our country.
Now I have to admit, it was really drilled into me by my parents when I was a child that you don’t interrupt others but you listen to them when they are speaking. So I guess I am especially sensitive to this – I hope not too much so.
At any rate, I don’t want to dwell on the negative today. The more important thing is that listening can be a positive force in our lives.
So, I have three simple recommendations for responding positively to Jesus’ desire that we be good soil or good listeners. I think that these will be helpful, but you can see what you think of them.
Recommendation 1: Believe
My first recommendation is: Believe.
If it is the Scripture or Bible that we are listening to, we have to believe that this is the inspired Word of God.
We are called to believe that God speaks to us here. There is a message here about God or about us or about how we are to relate to God and to one another.
If it is another person that we are listening to, like a family member or friend or whomever, we again need to believe.
Here we need to believe that the other person is made in the image and likeness of God, just as we are. And so, we assume that this person may have something worthwhile to say or is deserving of our attention.
Recommendation 2: Inquire
So, 1) Believe, and then my second recommendation for good listening is: 2) Inquire.
Maybe a passage of Scripture that is read here at Mass or that we read at home is confusing.
So we need to inquire. We look at the footnotes or commentary on the Bible or we ask someone here at the parish to try to clarify this for us.
Or maybe we are in a conversation with someone and trying to be attentive but we just don’t get what is being said.
So again we need to inquire. We respectfully ask: “Would you please explain what you meant by that?” or “I don’t think I understand, so could you please say more about that?”
Recommendation 3: Receive
So, 1) Believe, 2) Inquire, and my third recommendation for good listening is: 3) Receive.
If it is the Word of God, the Scripture, we need to receive it.
This means that we take it in, reflect and pray over it and see how it relates to our lives. It means – and this is crucial – that we are willing to allow the Word of God to modify our vision of life or change our opinion about something or make a difference in what we say or do.
If it is something that another person has said, we again need to receive it.
Here this means that we enter into the person’s life experience or thought process that are behind what they have said. In this case, to receive means that we at least appreciate more about that person as a result of this.
So, I offer these three recommendations for listening well to the Word of God and to one another.
1) Believe opens us up. 2) Inquire draws us in. And 3) Receive transforms both me as the listener and the relationship with the person who is listened to.