Thursday, April 21, 2016

Learning to listen

Truth be known, most of us are not good listeners. Being able to listen, I feel, is a gift. Most of us, while we act like we are listening, are already thinking about what we will say next - or even thinking about something totally unrelated to what I am suppose to be hearing. It is a bad habit that comes from too much stimulation: noisy public places, our busy households, contact television and radio. Hearing without really listening is sort of like learning to speed read without savoring the words I am reading, or like gobbling down fast food without really tasting what I have eaten. I get the gist of what is being said but keep my mind busy with other things. Is this how we encounter the joyful message of Easter???

When I come to the words that Jesus spoke to the disciples in John's gospel about the servant who is not greater than the master, and in the humble station of the one sent on the order of one who is greater, I wonder if Jesus isn't telling the disciples, and me, about the ones to whom we are to listen. I wonder if Jesus is speaking not simply about the way we are to bear the witness that is in us, but also about the sources without which we have no witness.

It is a significant message, these Easter tidings, when one considers with what weight and seriousness we receive the words that come from media personalities and how lightly and glibly we ignore the witness of those we deem less important. It is an especially important message for a church whose leadership has, for centuries, given priority to the words of adult males, dismissing as na├»ve or even ignorant the voices of women, children, the aged, and those whose color - or collar - did not match their own.

Almost from the beginning, the good news of God has been made known to us by those of low station and degree. Shepherds, fishermen, grieving women. Throughout this history, God seeks to teach us that we must discipline ourselves not only for the telling but also in the  listening -- since only after we have truly heard can we tell others the good news we ourselves have received.

It is our place in this Eastertide to listen, to receive the good news of the Resurrection, to open our ears and our hearts, that we, too, may truly hear and so be overwhelmed with the joy of Easter. And only then to speak.

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