Friday, February 26, 2010

Listening, a Lenten Penance

This Sunday's Gospel (Luke 9, 28-36) gives us an account of the Transfiguration when Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain and revealed Himself to them in His glory. At the end of this experience a voice comes from heaven and says, "This is my Son, my beloved, listen to Him." That command "to listen" is, I believe, a timely on for today, to listen to God and to listen to one another.

We live in the so-called communication age. We can be in touch with one another rapidly via cell phone, the internet and internet based social communication tools such as Facebook and Tweeter. Anyone can get their message out there, including myself with this blog. We're all talking, but are we listening.

In the halls of congress we find republicans and democrats alike yelling at one another and very few of them are really trying to listen to what the other side has to say. This is especially evident in the health care debate. Similar nonsense happens in the Church as well. On TV and radio talk shows allow callers to express their opinion, as long as they agree with the talk show host. One such host has followers who proudly call themselves "ditto heads", meaning that they don't think for themselves but just "ditto" what the host has to say.

To listen does not mean to give another some attention, a hearing, so that we can argue back and prove ourselves right. To listen means to try and we get inside the skin, inside the world of another, to try to experience life from their point of view. In the end we may still disagree but we gain a greater appreciation for the other's perspective.

Listening is a lost art not only on the grand stage of Church and politics. It is sorely needed in interpersonal relationships, especially in marriage.

How about taking on listening as a Lenten penance. Commit to listening more to you husband, wife, parents, children. Listen to someone with different political and theological opinions. Try to understand what leads them to think they way they do. What thoughts, what life experiences have shaped them. Try not to disagree, even if you do, but simply try to draw them out so that you can see where they're coming from. Make an attempt to find common ground even though you may still disagree.

Think of this. The greatest act of listening is the Incarnation where God becomes one of us to walk in our shoes, to experience life as we experience it, to be like us in all things but sin. We cannot imitate that perfectly, but we can aspire to that great act of listening. To truly listen is one of the greatest acts of love that we can perform. So listen, for Lent.

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