(Editors Note: Embarking on a new tradition in 2022, the friars of Sacred Heart will alternate penning a letter or discussion aimed to help parishioners engage with the readings, the parish, or their outreach initiatives on a weekly basis. This new practice continues with a letter from Fr. Zachary Elliott, where he details the challenges we have to truly listen to God and each other.)
- Readings for The Second Sunday of Lent
Dear Sacred Heart Parishioners,
This Sunday, I would like to focus on a single word from the Gospel, spoken by God to Peter, James, and John. “Then from the cloud came a voice that said: This is my chosen Son; listen to Him.” (Lk 9:35) The word “listen” comes from the Old English term “hlysnan,”
meaning “pay attention to.”
We live lives filled with noise and sound, so much so that the simple act of listening becomes more difficult. We hear well enough, sure, and there is plenty out there to hear these days. Listening to each other is not easy to start with, but it has become more difficult in this age. Conversations trend toward becoming monologues, where someone waits patiently until the other person has finished, all the while formulating a response in their own mind.
We may find our discussions becoming debates, where someone listens only in order to disagree or find fault in another. To listen is to give of yourself, to put yourself into the other person’s mind and heart. It is not just hearing the words spoken and being able to recite what was heard. It is the understanding and acknowledgement without any of the noise or your self interests distorting the premise.
To listen is to risk. To listen may mean getting more involved. To risk your time, often when you can least afford it, or to remove yourself from the equation in order to serve another in that moment. Listening can also leave us exposed, because when we listen, we are agreeing to set ourselves aside, which may make some of us feel vulnerable. While we describe the sacrifice associated with the action, we can also find positive affirmations in listening. Listening can be an act of love, to be where another can reach out to you, and you share not words, but yourselves. What a wonderfully human attribute!
During Lent, we make time to listen to Christ. This is the command of the Father from the cloud. Listen to Him. This is what Peter, James, and John were ordered to do. Why? Because here is at once God’s Son and God’s revelation. In various ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets, but in these last days, He has spoken to us by his Son.
Jesus is God’s revelation to us. He is the point of personal contact between God and us. How does Jesus speak to us? Vatican II rings loud and clear. Christ is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the church. Listening to Jesus is not the same as listening to others. The same intensity, yes, the same openness, but a greater risk, because we are challenged to follow as well. When God told Peter, James, and John to listen to Jesus, He was saying “obey Him and do what He tells you; follow Him.” If we really listen to Jesus in the proclaimed word, then we can hear Him in our everyday lives.
Let’s take God’s command seriously and listen this Lent. God speaks to us in our loneliness, our pain, our suffering when nothing is going right. Only by listening in desperation do we hear God speak. Not explaining, not defending, not to justify, but only saying “trust in Me.” There is the sound of silence (thank you, Simon & Garfunkel), when we listen quietly, allowing God’s voice to whisper to us. Listen to one another. Listen to Christ in the proclaimed word. Listen to the word of God in the world around us. Allow God to come to you through your senses.