Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Listen!
Listen! Evaluate! Decide - classical advice for anyone charged with making decisions; and, in one way or another, that is everyone of us. In to-day's Mass we are shown three instances in which people listen and hear God speaking to them.

Genesis 18: 1-10: Abraham interprets the presence of the mysterious travelers and identifies them as messengers from God advising him of the great destiny he is to fulfill in becoming our Father in Faith

Colossians 1: 24-28: Paul tells the Colossians that he has heard the message of salvation from Christ; and, despite suffering imprisonment and the pains of old age, continues to make it known to all who will listen.

Luke 10: 38-42: Here we have a record of the encounter between Jesus and Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha. Each welcomes Jesus in her own way - Martha by being the gracious hostess, and Mary by being the attentive listener. Each recognized the presence of Jesus in her life, and Jesus rewards them with some precious wisdom.

Point 1: Not very many people are good listeners. If we take time to look at the average conversation, more often than not, it is simply an interrupted monologue with each participant waiting for an opportunity to cut in! The purpose of these short reflections is to help in the development of a Christian personality; a personality that is readily identified as Christian. Being a good listener is integral to such a personality. Quite apart from being good manners, being a good listener frequently opens to us opportunities to know more than we already do! Particularly is this so when we are trying to understand what it is that God wants of us. I recall some advice given long ago on the merits of being a good listener -"better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and prove that you are"!

Point 2: There are many ways in which we show ourselves to be good listeners. In a series of radio talks, "On A Christian Response", given by the late Cardinal Suenens, former Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel {Malines-Brussels}, Belgium, the Cardinal offered many practical suggestions on being a good listener. One ought to listen not just to what it said, he advised, but also listen for the unspoken word - the awkward silence, the half uttered word, the words that are held back. To have ears for mute distress, or a semi-confidence timidly offered, is, indeed, an art worth cultivating. To be able to listen even when one may know more about the subject than the other person who is talking is also an art. By allowing people to talk it out can bring out the best in them.

Point 3: But more important than listening to others, we need to develop the habit of listening to God. We can hear the voice of God in the Scriptures, we can find it in the pages of history and tradition. We can hear it in the teaching authority of the Church. And, it can be heard in the many acts of providence with which we are constantly confronted. Above all, we should bring the art of listening to our prayer. So frequently prayer is nothing but a monologue telling God how to run the world, or presenting a shopping list. With God, it is no different than with people. If we do not listen, we do not learn; if we do not learn, we are incapable of helping.

Conclusion: Today's Scripture readings all emphasize this need to listen attentively in order to be able to interpret the divine message. In his "Divine Comedy", Dante Aligheri commented that "he who listens, takes notes". This very closely resembles the advice given in the Book of Proverbs:

Scriptural reference: Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom for the future. (Pro. 19:20)