Return to Article | Print this Page
Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P.
Listening

     Did you hear about the husband who wanted to test out his wife's hearing?  So one day, as she was sitting and reading the newspaper, he got about twenty feet behind her and said, "Dear, can you hear me?"  He heard no response from her.  He got ten feet behind her. "Dear, can you hear me?"  He heard nothing.  Finally, we got right behind her and said, "Dear, can you hear me." And she answered, "For the third time, yes, I can hear you."

     In St. mark's gospel, chapter 7, we read about the cure of a deaf man, one who couldn't hear at all.  Jesus, in his compassion for the man, cures him. 

     We might think, well, this gospel doesn't apply to me.  I can hear very well.  But we need to reflect on more than just hearing the sound of another's voice. 

     Hearing, really hearing, means we reach understanding.  And to understand means that we listen with our ears, our eyes, our head, and our heart.

     If you ask a person "How are you?" And they say "Fine." But you can see they are almost crying, your ears heard one thing but your eyes heard something else.

     If a person says they love you, but in the next breath, they tell you a lie, your ears heard one thing but your heart heard something else.  Love means telling the truth.

     Although the bible doesn't say this, I think there was a very wise person in Jesus' list of friends.  Among Jesus' friends were Lazarus, and Lazarus' sisters, Martha and Mary.  One day Jesus was visiting their home, and the gospel says that Mary was at the feet of Jesus, listening.  If you and I listen to Jesus, like Mary, we will become very wise.

     Your grandparents here have been at the feet of Jesus for many years, listening.  Listening to the readings for the Bible at Mass, meditating on the life of Jesus, and listening to God present in their hearts.  I'll bet all of you children have already heard lots of wisdom from your grandparents.

     But children have a lot to say, too.  And grandparents like to listen to what's going on in your life.  Older people can regain a sense of wonder and joy when they listen to what you've learned in school, what your talents and hobbies are, and what you dream of and hope for.

     There is only one problem that we all have sometimes..  It is very difficult to listen.  I think it is the most difficult thing we human try to do.  Because something gets in the way. 

     Let's say you come up to me and say, "I hurt my leg today in gym class."  And I respond, "Oh let me tell you what happened to me when I was in school. I.I.I.

     That's what gets in the way.  "I."  Imagine a large letter "I" right here in front of me.  If I can't get around it, I may never hear what you really wanted to tell me.

     Let's say this time you come up to me and say, "I hurt my leg today in gym class.  And this time I respond, "Tell me more."  Ah what powerful words.  "Tell me more." Then you tell me how much it hurts, that you are afraid what you mother will say when you get home, and you are worried you might have to see a doctor, and you are afraid you might get a poor grade in gym class.  I can learn a lot about you if I just put aside the "I" word for a while and say those magic words, "Tell me more." 

     Sometimes conversations go like this.  "I did, I said, I think."
"Well, I did and I said and I think." "Well, I did and I said and I think."  "Well, I did and I said, and I think."  And nobody's listening.  They are just reporting, like two TV sets facing each other.  TV sets don't have any ears.  And sometimes people don't either.

     If we say, "Tell me more."  And we listen with closely with our ears, our eyes, and our hearts, we might eventually say, "Oh, now I understand what you are going through."  And the other person says, "Oh, thank goodness, somebody understands."  Once that happens then the second person can begin to speak with the word, "I."

     A famous theologian, Paul Tillich, once said, "The first duty of love is to listen."  "The first duty of love is to listen."  Do you love someone?  Then listen to them, and try to understand them.  Genuine human communication is a beautiful experience.

     As we come to know another, we somehow come to know ourselves better.  And God is present because love is present.

     Do you understand what I am saying?  Ah, yes, you do.  Thanks for listening.  And I love you, too.