The Word Dwells Among Us
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!” (Romans 10:15)
We first encounter the power of love as infants who would not survive without care. Later came Bible stories of creatures who battled their faithful God but were never abandoned for long. Our faith is not immersed in pretty sounds. A man nailed to wood hangs on the walls of our homes. What is real is raw at times and even children get this. The word slips into our lives through the persons we come to trust. We can’t say when it first began because there is always one who comes before. Through many disguises the word becomes present, though we often do not hear it.
For Augustine, the word took flesh as he sat in the cathedral of Milan and learned to listen. Ambrose was a busy pastor and Augustine could not find a way to confront him with his doubts. Being silent was the blessing Augustine needed to learn the meanings behind the words of Scripture he had dismissed as childish. What he now heard amazed him.
Listening is the virtue that is not mentioned in most ethics books. We must learn to listen. It is not simple to quiet the buzz in the brain and open into awareness. The habit of listening, like other habits, takes practice and help. “Dear God, keep worries at bay while I lay down my tasks to enter into your presence.” Some say that emptying the self is impossible: instincts supposedly drive us to seek our advantage. The craving self is an axiom of economics, while a listening self appears strange: what are you listening for? In learning to listen, the myth of egoism shatters. In moments of quiet, another kind of strength is born within us. Surprised, we did not know such strength was ours. It flows from God.
Father John Kavanaugh, S.J., describes prayer as a declaration of independence from the cultural conga of work, spend, and fear. In his writing and teaching, John made real the God whose face is revealed in human poverty of many kinds. He helped to awaken us to the goodness of the world and the dignity of each person. John died November 5th in St. Louis, Missouri. He was a beautiful messenger of a liberating faith.
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