16th Sunday Ordinary Time
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: July 17, 2022
“I just need you to listen”
As most of you know, I am a father with two daughters who are now 29 and 27 years old, as well as being an engineer by education.
You may not realize this, but this combination is not always the best when you are raising teenage daughters.
As an engineer, my role is always to solve difficulties, make things more efficient, streamline, improve and fix problems when I find them.
Raising teenage daughters, (I learned slowly and over time), it was not the best action to try and solve their problems and try to make things better.
My job instead was to listen, confirm, nod, and preferably not talk or voice an opinion!
“Dad” they would say “we just need you to listen and not fix it”!
This is good parenting advice, and I would also say good spousal advice also for all of us.
I was reminded of this life lesson in preparing the homily for this week with the story of Martha and Mary.
We know the story well over the years, with Martha busy preparing things and Mary kneeling and listening.
Jesus says to Martha: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things”.
We must put this story into a little context here as Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem to his passion, death, and resurrection. All he wanted was to spend time with the ones he loved in these last few days. The food, the dishes, etc., were irrelevant at this time, because he was really focused on this last part of his mission.
Martha did not recognize the type of kindness that Jesus needed at this moment, but instead on the type she thought was required. She was not aware of what was happening but instead was distracted, burdened, and troubled by the duties she believed were important.
Mary on the other hand, sat at Jesus’s feet and listened to what he was saying. She realized that what Jesus needed at that moment was to talk, teach, and share his words and final advice with his closest friends.
It is an important lesson that Christ teaches us here in this story about the importance of truly listening in life. There is a time for action, but usually it only follows a time of listening.
Also, we see that we are to try and use listening to build our awareness to see what others might need, instead of what we might want to do.
We see a little bit of this in the first reading today as Abraham sees three guests coming toward this tent in the heat of the day and runs to help these strangers.
He uses words of invitation and welcome that invite the strangers to tell him what they need when he says, “if I find favour with you”, “let me bring you refreshments, and rest” with the spirit and tone of “if that is what you want”. There is no imposition or telling, but only invitation and that potential for listening and dialogue.
And the story tells us that “he stood by them under the tree while they ate”, like a servant waiting patiently.
This spirit of listening quietly is again in what I believe Pope Francis has been challenging us with in the years that he has been the pope.
Listen to a few key quotes that he has had for us:
The first is a reflection that he wrote on today’s gospel when he says: “A guest is not merely to be served, fed and looked after…they ought to be listened to…a guest should be welcomed as a person, with a story, their heart rich with feelings and thoughts, so that they may truly feel like they are among family.”
The second is when he was discussing the art of communication and he said this:
“Listening is much more than simply hearing…it is about communication and calls for closeness. Listening allows us to get things right…it means being able to share questions and doubts, to journey side by side.
Listening is never easy. Many times, it is easier to play deaf. Listening means paying attention, wanting to understand, to value, to respect and to ponder what the other person says.
It reminds me of our work on the new church we are building. We had many discussions and debates about certain aspects of the church, and we must take time over weeks and months to listen to each others perspective. I hope you will see that the fruit of this will be a place worthy for your worship and help all grow in our love of God and neighbour.
Pope Francis concludes with, “Knowing how to listen is an immense grace, it is a gift which we need to ask for and then make every effort to practice. “
So today we hear about listening, and the question then becomes, how do we put this into practice in our daily lives and I would offer up a few key thoughts:
- First, making time to listen – we are so busy these days and especially with our access to our cell phones that we do not have the time to listen. We need times when we have silence and no distractions that we can listen to one another. How about banning cell phone use at all meals? How about talking to others in waiting rooms, rather than scrolling through the latest on Instagram?
- Second, when we pray, we need to listen – again Francis gives us great advice: “If we go to pray, and we talk, talk, talk, then we do not listen to Jesus. We do not allow him to speak to our heart.” Silent prayer either in a church before or after mass, in a quiet place in our house or in nature allows God to speak to us and hear these little messages in our heart. Waiting quietly for His message is not easy, but so peaceful and joyful when we know we have heard Him.
- And finally, when you are out and about and run into someone no matter where you are, again take the time: People are looking for someone to listen to them. Someone willing to grant them time, to listen to their trials and challenges. We ran into someone on a hike the other day that we hadn’t seen in many years and when we asked how they were, they started by saying that they were okay, but when we stopped and waited, they told us their wife passed away two months ago and then proceeded to share how tough their daily life had become and gave us great advice on appreciating your spouse each and every day.
So, this week, as our homework, I ask each of us to practice our listening. To do this, just picture a person you love looking at you and saying, “I just need you to listen”.