Feb 14, 2021
Today our society, at least in word and card, if mindful of love. Beloved “one of the most extraordinary gifts of love we can give to one another is the gift of listening.” This gift will not cost you any money or a trip to the store; but it does require conscious and intentional effort. For when we listen, truly listen with the whole of our heart and face and being, it is an act of love.
And when we don’t listen or aren’t listened to… we know what that looks like and how that feels too. ‘Can you think of a time when someone was distracted or kept interrupting you when you were speaking or responded in a way that did not acknowledge what you said’ How does that feel?
Now think of a time when someone was distracted or kept interrupting you when you were trying to talk about something important. You know… and you don’t only have to look at the examples paying out on the national stage to know for there are examples closer to home too: the time when you are talking about something important to your loved one and you turn around and realize no one is in the room? Or when you on the zoom meeting and you share and idea and then the meeting just goes on and then someone else explains the same idea you already shared? Or when you are in a conversation together and the other person says “uh huh, uh huh” while on their phone or cooking or day dreaming and you realize you are wasting your breath? Or the phone is out at the table or the computer open on the bed. How does that feel? Small? Frustrated? Angry? Resigned? Unworthy Diminished? All of that and more?
And then when we look in the mirror and see the log in our own eye and pause and quiet our mind and examen our heart for a moment and realize the many ways we too fall short of listening?
As I listen to our gospel reading, this message of the gift of listening resonates. In part because the transfiguring epiphany mountaintop extraordinary experience is in some ways also a very ordinary human example of what happens when we aren’t listening.
Imagine this with me: Jesus takes Peter and James and John up to a high mountain by themselves is transfigured before them in dazzling extraordinary white and the law- Moses and the prophets- Elijah appear and talk with Jesus… And instead of being speechless, or taking it all in, or falling to his feet, or removing his sandals, or something that indicates that he is focused intently on the conversation before him and not the one within him, Peter exemplifies our human condition and does what we humans do.
Peter blurts out, absorbed in his own thoughts, speaking before others are finished, interrupting the transfiguration with unsolicited advice. Our scriptures tell us “he did not know what to say,” and it seems to that the practice of being quiet and completely present, listening was not what bubbled up from his well. And so it takes what may have bene the very voice of God Almighty saying: “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!”
And while we think we might have chosen the better part like later Mary did and listened, when we pause and examen our hearts how do we act just like Peter did with one another and at times even with God? How might our relationships with God and each other be enriched with more mercy, and grace, and love if we were to practicing listening. Listening in a way that recognizes that each and every one of us is a Beloved son or daughter or child of God worthy of our attention and the ear of our heart?
St. Benedict of Nursia, in the Southern part of modern day Italy, is a 5th century monk and founder of monasteries of monks who lived together community under a rule to follow. And the Rule of St. Benedict written so that this community might grow in love of God and love for their neighbor starts with these words: “Listen with the ear of your heart.”
Beloved, listening to one another with the ear of our heart is one of the most extraordinary gifts of love we can give to God and to one another.
Let me share with you another example and one brought to mind by a dear friend, Sr. Miriam Elizabeth of the Order of St. Helena. And this one comes not from a 5th century manuscript but from my favorite part of the news: the comics— in particular the comic Rose is Rose by Pat Brady. And in this comic Rose is the mother of a toddler and Rose is usually fairly cheerful but owns the range of her emotions and can sometimes sees herself as a biker chick free of obligations. There is a particular comic strip in which Rose is busy folding what I imagine to be the never ending laundry and the toddler is trying to get her attention. Without turning around Rose says: “What do you want to tell me, Mimi? I’m listening!” Now it should be noted Rose is still very much facing away and folding laundry. And the toddler says, “Hofays Lisin!” Rose puts down the laundry, turns around, gets on level with her son, her beloved, focuses and says, “Okay I’ll ‘whole-face’ listen!”
And there is of course this heart over the toddler’s head because, beloved, we children of God, feel loved when another listens with their “whole-face”— listens with the ear of their heart.
Beloved, we have a God who listens with the heart — not only hearing the cries of the oppressed and weary throughout the years but also the emotions at the core of our stories just as God recognized the fear at the core of Peter up on that mountain. And, we have a God who brings God’s whole face down to our level in great humility through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. God listens. And, invites us to also to listen to one another.
The season of Lent begins soon, and often as part of our observance of Lent we give something up or take something on as a healthy practice of discipline in order to bring us closer to God. This year, I’m joining with others who are following through the Living Compass devotional in doing a bit of both through focusing on listening.
Imagine for yourself: the transformation when I “[try] to give up:”
Imagine for yourself: the transformation when I intend to take on:
Some of what I’ve shared with you today and more will be shared in this year’s Living Compass Lenten Devotionals on Listening. I encourage you to grab a paper copy, and give one away, or download a free digital version and join us this Lent in an act of love to God and to one another through listening with the whole of our face and the ear of our heart.
Living Compass Lenten Devotional introduction found on https://www.facebook.com/LivingCompass