We are invited by this week’s liturgy to listen intently to God’s Word and God’s presence in our daily lives. Jesus did come and continues coming to give us life that is meant to be received and shared. There is so much to take in by listening to so many voices and these coming weeks we will be invited to learn what His voice sounds like.
Perhaps you have had the frustrating opportunity to try to find a shortwave radio station. The voice or music fades in and out. The station has a narrow pin-point on the radio band. There is often all kinds of static and interference and many languages you cannot understand. You begin wondering if it is of any use. You wonder if you are on the correct band and have the proper time.
Trying to hear something like that is one thing, but trying to listen is even more difficult. The theme of this liturgy might be, “Learning to Listen to What We are Hearing.” There are so many voices coming from within and from outside ourselves. They are attractive to us and invite us to this form of living, perceiving, choosing, and relating. The voice of Jesus is merely one of these multi-speakered enticements with which we are presented every day, every moment.
The Gospels during Ordinary Time of this liturgical year will be from Luke’s account of the public life of Jesus. His ways, His words, His conflicts will be presented to us to hear, to listen to, and for our evaluating, in a sense, and our allowing Him into our ways and words. It is a long course as we try to get on His wavelength. He is not demanding, but inviting. He is challenging, but constant in His acceptance of the human condition.
We begin with a First Reading from the Prophet Nehemiah. Ezra is asked by the assembly to read from the Book of the Law. They listen for a long time and are moved by what they hear from the Law. They shout their agreement to all they hear. They then are encouraged not to feel sad, but rather joyful at what is read, for there is a sacredness to the reading and to the day. They are encouraged to eat and drink of the good things of the land which were signs of God’s abundant care for them. They are also reminded to set aside a portion of their plenty for those who have less.
Our Gospel reading opens with the first four verses from Luke in which he explains why he is writing this narrative. The rest of our reading skips ahead to the fourth chapter in which we begin listening to Jesus. He is in his home town and with His neighbors in the local synagogue. He is presented as giving an outline of His course, as does a professor at the outset of the semester. Jesus unrolls a scroll from the prophet Isaiah which predicts the mission of the Messiah. When He finishes the reading He rolls up the scroll and rolls out the startling declaration that He, their neighbor, is the Predicted One. They are astonished at His words and especially at the boldness of His mission.
Jesus is anointed and sent by God to do the unusual things of freeing, healing, and bringing the good news to those who are poor enough to hear it. Next week’s Gospel will present the response His neighbors give Him. For now it is enough for us to begin listening to what we hear.
Sometimes, well, often when our university’s basketball team is playing, I turn on the radio to find out how they are doing. (When we are winning I listen, but when they are not, I turn it off.) I hate not winning! I figure they will do better and so will I if I don’t listen. Listening to the truth is not easy.
Those who are poor enough to receive the Good News find the news good, because they are not grasping at anything such as false identities which come from possessions or titles. They are open to the valued name Jesus desires to give them which comes from God’s love for them. I cling to the good name and high profile our team can give us, and me, when we win. I love hearing the good news that we have won and done in those other guys. The bad news is the fact that not only did they not win, but I am confronted with the lack of a true sense of who I really am and what our university really is.
During these next weekend liturgies, it might be helpful to our relationship with God to listen to God’s Word and listen to all that is being offered and requested. It would be fun, in a prayerful way, to listen to our responses and reactions. What is good news and what is bad, and why! It is a long process, this becoming “obedient”, the word means “listening to”. It took a long time for the disciples to listen to what they were hearing. Jesus came to change the unusual to the usual. Our growing in the freedom to listen will free us to assist Him in the recovery of sight to those who have forgotten or have been blinded to their true image. The usual experience of being captured by the false will be created anew by their experiencing the unusual way we live the Good News we have had preached to us.
“Look up at the Lord with gladness and smile; your face will never be shamed.” Ps. 34, 6
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