Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Journey With Matthew - Day 19

My small group at SCLM; photo by Chris Morrison

A simple word study shows that the word "listen" appears fifteen times in Matthew's Gospel. Today is the third of three times in pretty rapid succession where Jesus uses the phrase, "let anyone with ears listen!" (11:15, 13:9, 13:43)

If you in fact hear the Gospel proclaimed (rather than just read silently) then you notice repetition better than you do in the silent reading of broken-up pericopes. To hear the same phrase three times in two chapters probably means it's kind of important. Let anyone with ears listen...let anyone with ears listen...let anyone with ears listen!

Recently I had an opportunity to participate in a continuing indaba event sponsored by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music on the topic of same-sex blessings. See more here. The deep conversations we engaged in required a commitment from all "to listening and being open to hear other perspectives, without pressure to change position."

In everyday conversation, most of us are not very good listeners. We listen for a pause or a break so we can interject our thoughts. It is not always as extreme as that old Saturday Night Live Point/Counterpoint routine but we live in a point/counterpoint culture, and much of what passes for conversation is about speaking.

But when we are really heard, when we feel truly listened to, something happens. In my experience it is always holy, but it requires intentionality. In Matthew's Gospel we see a lot of point/counterpoint - and a lot of reactivity from the religious authorities. Jesus heals on the Sabbath, and they are outraged. But in their anger and in their "defense of the tradition" they stop listening.

We are called, as the Church, to preach the Gospel - sometimes even with words. Spoiler alert: Matthew's Gospel will end with the Great Commission to share the good news "to the ends of the earth." But we get two ears and one mouth for a reason, and I think that the practice of listening is critical before we open our mouths to speak. Listening to God, to our neighbor, to our enemies, to the beating of our own hearts. Listening as a holy practice that leads to reconciliation and peace.

Let anyone with ears listen!

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