In Order to Understand, We Must First Be Willing to Listen

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HOMILY FOR THE 17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

Readings:  1Kings 3:5,7-12/Rom. 8:28-30

Psalm:  119:57,72, 76-77,127-130

Gospel:  Mt. 13:44-52

 

How often have we been told to “Listen Up!  Pay Attention!  Do you hear what I am saying to you?”  When we think how we get our news and views, it usually begins with one of those phrases, or something to that affect.  It is supposed to invoke to the listener that what is to be said next (or just before) was so important that our entire attention is needed.  Sometimes we listen; sometimes we don’t.  Or even worse, we think we listen but only hear what we think we hear or what we want to hear.  And lately we have much more things that take our attention away from the things that are really important:  Facebook; Twitter; Snapchat; YouTube and all the other stuff on the Internet and on TV.  We think we can text and drive and talk and walk and pay attention all at the same time.  Yet what happens is that our knowledge is just a scattered as the way we receive it.  And now we are reaping the benefits of that scattered knowledge.

It was this feeling that Jesus must have been experiencing in the Gospels that had been proclaimed these past weeks.  The 13th Chapter of Matthew shows Jesus trying to convey the Kingdom of God to those who wanted to hear him.  But they had a hard time understanding him.  So he went to using Parables, stories that held a meaning that could have been hard for the regular person to understand if they were told up front.  He talked about farmer sowing his field, how that grain went over the many types of soil and only those seeds that fell on good soil and produced a hundred fold. He talks about those searching for treasure in the fields and, after finding it, will sell everything he owns so he can buy the field.  He said the reign of heaven was like yeast that was added to flour to become bread.  And yet, even though he tried to give them clues as to the Kingdom of Heaven, many still couldn’t understand.  It was as the Prophet Isaiah said, “You will hear, but you will not understand; you will see, but you will not perceive; for this people’s heart has grown callous, their ears are dull of hearing, they have closed their eyes.”[1]

What sort of listening was Jesus hoping the crowds would have to his message?  Perhaps he was hoping they would have the same mindset as his ancestor, King Solomon.  In the reading today from the First Book of Kings, Solomon had a dream that God came to him and asked him that whatever he asks, God will give to him.  Solomon had just gotten rid of all the threats to his throne, so he became the true successor to his father David’s Kingdom.  He could have asked for anything:  Power over his enemies, a long life, riches beyond anyone’s imagination.  He could have asked for any of that.  But what he asks from God is something that no one-not even God Himself-would anticipate.  He asked for the gift of understanding.  He wants to be able to rule the Kingdom by ruling with compassion, wisdom and knowledge that someone much older than he could have.  In other words, he wanted the capacity to listen to his subjects’ grievances so he can find out the truth.  God was impressed with his wish and granted his request.  The Scriptures continue with the story of Solomon judging the two women that claimed to be the mother of a child.  When Solomon suggests that the child be cut in two and each woman gets a half, he discovers who the fraud is because she is the one that agrees with the decision.  This is the kind of listening Jesus wants the crowd to have. It is the kind of listening that his Disciples have, and it is the kind of listening that He wants us to have.

When I was kid I had PSR once a week with the Dominican Sisters.  We had this one who stood 6’3” and had a three pew reach.  She scared a lot of us kids and a few of the parents, as well.  But one of the things that she did teach me was that when someone is speaking, you look at them so that what they say can go in one ear and stay put in the brain.  Once you turn your head to something else, what they say goes in one ear and out the other.  What she was telling us that when we listen, it is not only with our ears.  It is with our eyes, our minds and our souls as well.  When we listen, we need the attention of our entire bodies.  Otherwise, what was said may have been important, but we wouldn’t know because we were not paying attention.  This is what Jesus is meaning when he said “Those that have ears, listen.”

It is not just to use our ears to gather the information, but to use our total being to gather what God wants us to know what he wants of us and how we are to live with each other.  When we are able to listen to the Good News with our entire being, then we can live in the spirit of Solomon and Christ.  For when we listen, we understand what God is asking of us:  To love one another as God loves us.  When we listen to one another, it means that we love them enough to pay attention to what they have to say.  When we listen to the Church, we love her enough to pay attention as well. And when we listen to God, we love Him enough to pay attention to Son and those His Son entrusted to carry the Good News to the Ends of the Earth.

This is what Jesus is asking from all of us: yesterday, today and tomorrow.  When we pray to God, we talk to him.  Yet all the time, God is talking to us.  We usually can hear God talking, but to truly understand, we have to remove all distractions…….and listen.

 

MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK

 

Questions for Reflection:

  1. How often do you pay attention to another? How often do you look away?  How often does your attention stray when God is talking to you?

 

  1. Of all the ways that Jesus described the Kingdom of Heaven, which is your favorite? Or, which one makes the most sense?

 

  1. King Solomon asked for understanding from God in order to rule his Kingdom. What sort of understanding does a leader need in order to be successful?

[1] Is. 6:9-10.

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