16th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 17 July 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I; Genesis 18: 1-10; Responsorial: Psalm 15; II: Colossians 1: 24-28; Gospel: Luke 10: 10: 38-42
This summer Sunday of Ordinary Time we are blessed to hear, in God’s Word a lesson of perhaps one of the greatest calls and gifts God has shared with His creation, that of listening. Listening is, in many ways a lost treasure of the gifts we have to share. It is profoundly ironic that with all the technology, tools, ways and means of relating to each other, to creation, and especially to God His voice is so obscure. By way of example the oft referred to need for more vocations is familiar. But is it the lack of vocations, i.e., the call, the voice of God, calling for men and women to respond to the priesthood, religious life or whatever life for which God has created them? Or is it the lack of souls who are listening? Our readings from the Scriptures share two examples of men and women who were learning to listen, for and with God.
In our reading from Genesis we have the story of Abraham minding his own business on a hot afternoon when he saw three men standing nearby. Abraham, following the ever sacred work of hospitality, greets the men and seeks to bring water for the washing of their feet and food for their refreshment. Abraham saw these strangers and sought to serve them, humbly in the customs of his day. Little did Abraham realize that this seeming chance encounter would bring him opportunity to Listen and Hear from the angels of God of the promises and plans God for his life. Abraham is a university-worth of lessons and examples a man who chose to learn to listen. As are the lessons shared by the two women in our Gospel reading.
The stories of Martha and Mary, and their brother Lazarus are an holy treatise on the graces of listening. We may want, in our haste and familiarity to rush to remember it was Mary who chose the better part (and assumed favor from Jesus) that day Christ was in their home to visit and eat. And, indeed Jesus does gently call Martha to better learn to listen as she struggled with preparing the meal and very likely wanting to sit, peacefully, at the feet of Jesus. But we may fail to see the irony that it was busy, troubled Martha to whom Jesus shared that holy lesson that the Gospels would record. But for these two sisters and their brother they each would grow, in ways very often painful and difficult to listen to Christ. They embrace, in prophetic type, the work of the Body of Christ spoken of in our epistle of sharing and filling up the sufferings of Christ. The sickness of Lazarus, his death, their mourning and despair all illustrate the vocations of suffering that many faithful disciples realize in their lives. And it was distinctly Lazarus who would experience the realities of crossing the threshold of eternity, of dying and being in the tomb for four days but then to hear the call of God to come forth and to listen to the cries of amazement as he was freed from his burial shrouds. The lessons of listening they would share with us would bring us to better listen and hear God and each other. Abraham, Martha and Mary have much for our heart to hear.
But, just for this day let us focus upon: Distractions, Devotion and Dynamic listening for, and with God.
Distractions – They are a persistent part of life for us all. In family life the needs and demands of spouse, children, work, house and our world all can easily crowd out the voice of God calling us to Him. Even for the cloistered religious distractions can intrude. Temptations, annoyances with other sisters or brothers, disappointments all can crudely intrude into what should be a sacred time of listening. But it is often in our distractions God may be seeking to be heard. Jesus, in the wilderness, after His baptism encountered demonic distractions as our Lord sought to be the Beloved Son called by His Father. But Christ had listened and countered the lies from darkness with the Light of Truth. Abraham, seeking to rest in the heat of the day may have found the distractions of his uninvited guests a source of annoyance but he was learning..to Listen for God.
Devotion – The holy joy of deep devotion for God is evident in each our heroes and heroines. Abraham had early on began his lessons on devotion to listening to and following God. But he didn’t always get it right. More than once choices were made, usually with the intent of helping along the will of God. But through those detours God sought and the patriarch continued to learn to hear God’s call. He learned that the gift of repentance would bring him back to His Lord. Likewise with Martha and Mary through the business of preparing a meal or the fear and worry of tending Lazarus in his illness, or in the crushing grief they held in their hearts a devotion to seeking Jesus and His voice. Regardless. They learned to ignore and still the clamors of fear and doubt. And then, in holy stead to seek and listen for the whisper of hope and mercy God would bring.
Dynamic Listening grows in the souls yearning for the Words of God whispered in the power of the Holy Spirit. The necessity of active listening, to attentive, careful efforts of listening to another is so needed in our world today. To pay attention to words, the window of the soul, the eyes, the actions of the body and nuances of speaking all are vital among us as people. It is just as vital to actively heed what God be seeking to say. In His people, the Church the challenge of heeding the cries of pain, fear, doubt or anger cannot be ignored. The prophets spoke of God calling for our response as we hear and heed the cries of the poor. God would speak to us through the lonely acts of lifestyles to which we may not understand. To listen is not necessarily to condone or understand but it is essential if we are to see and hear God’s message of redemption He proclaimed from the Cross. We must learn to come into His Presence to hear the freedom and joy of the Mass or the direction we need in time spent with the Blessed Sacrament or in prayer with the saints. Dynamic Listening can bring us to literally journey, walk with God, into the garden or at the beach as God would whisper through the songs of creation.
For those seeking to hear and follow God we must remember it is about an ongrowing relationship with our Savior, our Lord. As the early Celtic Catholics would believe it was about learning to listen for the heartbeat of God as St. John the Beloved rest upon the chest of His Lord at the First Eucharist. For us each, for us together, may we grow through the distractions and with deep devotion learn to listen with the dynamic grace of the Holy Spirit.