2nd Sunday Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: January 14, 2024
Who taught you to pray?
I remember watching my grandmother sitting with a rosary in her hands. There were certain teachers in my Catholic schools who taught basics of prayers. In high school and university I had some different experiences where I deepened my prayer life. I had some priests and spiritual directors who taught me different methods of prayer. There are some good spiritual writers that I have read that taught me more about prayer.
There is a difference between learning prayers and learning to pray. Learning prayers is important at the beginning, but real prayer is mostly about listening and paying attention.
We saw in our first reading the story of the young boy Samuel. It is really a story of him learning to pray. He is hearing a voice calling his name, at first he does not understand. He goes to the old, wise man Eli and asks him what he wants. After a few times Eli realizes what is happening and he tells Samuel that next time he should simply say, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” This is such a great and simple prayer.
If you asked me to help in your prayer, the first thing I might encourage you to do is begin each day in silence and in your heart speak this prayer. “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Then as you go through your day, truly listen to what God is saying to you. Hear the voice of God in the events, relationships, struggles, good and bad moments of life.
When you go to visit a friend or someone in your family, in your heart pray, “speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Then be ready to notice what God is saying to you in that encounter.
In today’s Gospel, a few disciples begin to follow Jesus and ask about him. Jesus invited them, “Come and See.” This is prayer, to answer the invitation of Jesus, “Come and see.” Everywhere you go in your life, listen for the voice of Jesus, pay attention to God speaking to you in each encounter, in each experience of your life.
I saw a tweet recently by a Cardinal quoting from the famous Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. “If your daily life seems poor to you, don’t blame it. Instead blame yourselves for not being enough poets to discover all of its riches. For with the Creator, nothing is poor.”
Like Samuel, we need to learn to pray. It is more than just learning prayers. We need to learn to listen and pay attention to God speaking to our hearts, in every moment and each situation of our life. We need to hear Jesus inviting us to be with him, “Come and see.”
That simple prayer of Samuel is one that is helpful to each one of us. “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Begin each day, begin each experience, with that spirit, ready to listen to God speaking to your heart.
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”.
4th Sunday of Easter – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: May 12, 2019
Are you a good listener? I should probably ask your spouse, or your friends, or your children that question. Listening well is difficult, it is a skill that needs to be developed. It is not just about hearing the words, it is about hearing deeply into the heart, into the meaning.
Good listening is a key to marriage, a key to any community, and it is a key to a good spiritual life. In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.” Being a good Catholic requires being a good listener. Are you listening to the voice of the shepherd, are you listening to the voice of Jesus?
Years ago when I was Vocation Director in the Diocese, I had to assist people discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood or religious life. They struggled to know if this was really a call from the Lord. But, the difficulty is that this call usually does not come in some dramatic fashion or in a loud voice. Sometimes people are looking for some sign. But, the voice of the Lord comes in a much more subtle way, often only recognized in complete silence.
How do we listen for the voice of Jesus in our lives?
Listen to the people in our life: Your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, the poor, refugees. Are we listening to the cry of need in the people within our family? Are we listening to the cry of need in people within our community? Jesus speaks to us at times through the needs of others. Often we who call ourselves Christians are not listening to the voice of Jesus when it is not convenient, when it comes through the disabled, the child with autism, refugees, or one person quietly in anguish within our own home.
Listen to creation: Jesus is the face of God, the source of all creation. Therefore, we also able to hear the voice of the Lord in creation. Latest report indicates that up to 1 million plants and animals could go extinct in the near future. We know the effects of climate change that we face. Are we listening to the cry of our earth. The voice of the Lord is heard in creation as well.
Listen to the Scriptures: Each Sunday we listen to the Word of God proclaimed in the Scriptures. Many also take time at home to read the Gospels. When we are listening to the Scriptures we need to let Jesus speak to our heart.
In Silence: To listen to someone, we need to stop talking for a moment. We need to shut off distractions, including our phones. Inner silence where we stop for a moment is the key to good listening. Silence is necessary in our life to hear the voice of the shepherd.
Listening is an important skill, it is a great gift we can offer to another person, it is the key to community and family. Good listening is also necessary to be a Christian. As Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.”
Are we listening to the voice of the shepherd speaking to us in the people in need within our life? Are we listening to the voice of the shepherd speaking to us in the cry of creation? Are we listening to the voice of the shepherd speaking to our hearts in the Scriptures? Are we ever silent enough to hear the quiet voice of the shepherd calling within us?