Summary: When, through our Baptism, we declared ourselves closely bound to Jesus Christ, we promised we would carefully listen to that same Jesus as we traveled on our life journey. Now, listening doesn’t just mean that we hear the words that someone else is speak
Seeds for Sowing, Vol. VI, Issue 2, No. 9
Second Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A
January 20, 2002
* Is. 49:3, 5-6
* 1 Cor.1:1-3
* Jn. 1:29-34
An Open Ear
The Follower’s Task
As we move out of the Christmas season, we are asked to reflect on what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The primary task of any follower is one that, at first appears quite simple. This task is to listen. A follower listens closely to the leader. If you are the adventurous sort and like to take a bit of a risk now and then, you know, first hand, how important it is to listen to the leader of any risky expedition. Imagine going through the jungle, or hiking through some unknown mountains, and deciding that you know as much as the leader of the expedition. And so, instead of listening closely to the one who is there to guide you through the dangers of the journey, you wander off on your own. The results would be disastrous.
Hearing and Listening
When, through our Baptism, we declared ourselves closely bound to Jesus Christ, we promised we would carefully listen to that same Jesus as we traveled on our life journey. Now, listening doesn’t just mean that we hear the words that someone else is speaking. Hearing is a physical activity. It means that one person speaks and the other person recognizes the words of the speaker. But listening is an activity of the whole person. When I listen to someone else, I allow the words of that other person to enter my very life. Those words then have the power to affect my life in a way that calls for a response. The response may be one that calls for a change in how I live, or in how I think and behave.
For example, if your best friend or your spouse tells you that they were deeply hurt by something you said or did, you could react by telling them that they’re much too sensitive. You might go on to urge them to develop a tougher skin so that, in the future, they wouldn’t be hurt so easily. If you did react in this way, you are most likely ignoring what your friend or your spouse said to you. Their words were an invitation to you to make a change in your life, and you rejected that invitation. An opportunity was placed before you -- an opportunity to love that other person in a deeper way, and you said ’No’.
During interviews in a San Francisco study, teenage prostitutes were asked: "Is there anything you needed most and couldn’t get?" Their response, invariably preceded by sadness and tears was unanimous: "What I needed most was someone to listen to me. Someone who cared enough to listen to me."
Here I Am
The Lord Jesus is constantly speaking to us, trying to guide us on our journey. Our first task is to listen deeply.
In today’s Psalm, we hear the words, "Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will." God is asking for our presence. The psalmist also declares that God is not necessarily asking for sacrifices, but rather that we have an open ear. That seems easy enough, doesn’t it? After all, isn’t the natural state of our ears an open one? Well, perhaps not. Many of us know how difficult it is to really listen to another person. Often, we get our defenses up. We want to hear easy, comfortable messages -- things we have heard before, so we don’t have to pay too much attention to anything new. It becomes draining when we have to listen to something new, especially when that something new becomes a challenge to the way we think or the way we act.
And it’s probably true for most of us that the way we listen to others is also the way we listen to God. If we are closed to hearing others, we will be closed to God. If we are open to others, we will be open to hearing God.
Many of us have protected areas of our lives -- areas where we have constructed a large sign that warns others: No Trespassing. If someone tries to get beyond that sign, we immediately react with behaviour that is clearly meant to protect us from looking too closely at that part of our lives. Our ’No Trespassing’ sign is not only for others, it is also meant for ourselves. We are afraid to look too closely at parts of our lives, for fear we may be called to some significant change.
You can almost be one hundred percent assured that this is where Jesus wants you to listen to him. Whenever we are so defensive about some area of our lives, it’s because we are afraid of what will happen if we allow someone else into that part of our lives, and many times that someone else is Jesus himself.