Do We Know How To Listen?

Are you obedient? Let’s face it: most of us probably cringe at that word, “obedient.” We might become defensive, asking, “Obedient to whom?”  It conjures up images of being submissive, being subject to somebody—and that is not at all popular in our autonomous society. No, obedience certainly isn’t in vogue.

But what if the question were asked another way: “Are you a good listener?” Do you truly listen during a conversation?  Do you truly hear what another person is saying? Most of us think that we are good listeners.  It would be interesting to see what those to whom we’re listening have to say about the quality of our listening.

Because, of course, listening is very important.  And, in fact, the word obedient literally means listen to, audire (listen), ob (to).  

Now the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus was a good listener, the listener par excellence. He tells us that Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered.” That line can sound frightening or off-putting.  Too many times we’ve heard trite and banal homilies from uneducated, unthinking, or manipulative preachers who babble off nonsense about how Jesus’ Father needed him to suffer to pay the price for the sins of the world, and Jesus, obedient as ever, listened to his Father and let himself be crucified. And we should be like Jesus: obedient to the Father and ready to suffer, no matter what crucifixion the Father sends our way.  Such nonsense. And it’s been used to warp the spirituality of many a person.

Yes, we want to be like Jesus.  After all, we are his followers. We want to do as Jesus did because we believe Jesus shows us the way of true life and true love. Jesus leads us into the Reign of God way of life where love holds sway.  So, like Jesus, we want to be obedient. We want to listen carefully and with great attention to God, our Abba just as Jesus did.

So let’s think about that: Jesus always listened to his Father. And what did he hear? He heard his Father calling him to love as the Father loves.  That’s why Jesus healed. That’s why he told stories about things like a father’s reckless love for his selfish sons. That’s why he sat at table and dined joyfully with prostitutes and thieves and all kinds of folks judged as “no good” by others.  Because he was listening to his Father who loved him passionately and who told him to do as the Father does: love, just love. Always. Everywhere. Everyone. Just love.

And even on the cross Jesus listened to his Father.  And he heard his Father telling him: love.  Keep loving.Even now. And what did Jesus do? He listened to his Father! He loved a thief into Paradise. He loved his persecutors with forgiveness. He offered mercy even to those crucifying and mocking him.  Why? Because even in his immense suffering Jesus kept listening to his Abba. And his Abba just kept saying: Love. Love. Even now, love.

And, of course, we know that such love is the only way to new life, real life, eternal life.

We are about to enter Holy Week—the time when we dedicate ourselves to enter deeply into Jesus’ suffering death and resurrection. We accompany Jesus as he listens to his Father, trusting in that Father’s love and living that love to the very end.

What a time to ask ourselves: So, am I a good listener? Do I give myself time to hear the Father assuring me He loves me? Do I hear the Father calling me to love as I am loved? To love always, everywhere, everyone? Can I listen to that? Can I be obedient to that?  Can I accept God’s profound love? And can I love the same way, just like Jesus, for the life of our bruised and broken and hurting world?

Fr. Liam

Leave a Comment