“. . .What prevents our hearing? Why is it possible not even to know what was read or what word was preached a few minutes after the celebration? How can we become more attentive to God’s word stirring in our hearts and in the lives of those around us? How can we hear the invitation of God to a new and more abundant life whose passage is through death? How can we help one another to pay attention during these many actions, to become more and more aware and reflective and receptive so that the transformation God longs to work in us can have its sway?”*
I begin today’s post with this quote from Kathleen Hughes to get us thinking about how we “hear” God’s Word being proclaimed. When we sit down to hear the prophets of the Old Testament, the writings of the apostles in the New Testament, and Jesus speaking to us in the Gospels, are we actively listening? We hear so many sounds in our daily life that we learn to filter out many of those sounds. We hear many different “sounds” at church as well. People talking, babies crying, choirs singing, lectors reading, presiders preaching – how many of those “sounds’ do we selectively tune out?
True listening is a lost art these days. When we hold a conversation with someone, we are often one step ahead of the person who is talking ready to give our response without really listening to what they have to say to us. We hear, but don’t listen. How are we listening to what we hear at Mass? There are so many things vying for our attention at Mass, just like the real world, how do we stay focused and listen to God’s voice in the midst of all the distractions?
It takes work to actively listen. Listening means opening yourself up, being vulnerable, putting aside your judgments, letting what you have heard with your ears to sink into your thinking and allowing it to reside in your consciousness. We often talk about full, active and conscious participation at Mass. Listening is part of that. When we actively listen, actively take into ourselves, the Word of God, the homily, the song the choir is singing, or the Prayers of the Faithful, we are consciously participating at Mass. We are being mindful at Mass.
Listening at Mass requires that we use our whole being, not just our ears – our whole body is involved in our listening. That’s not always easy – to be vulnerable in our listening. It involves letting someone into our lives, allowing someone to change our lives, our way of thinking and doing, that we may not expect. When we listen to God speaking to us, we are inviting challenge into our lives. God challenges us to think differently, act differently, love more completely. Listening is an act of love and leads to acts of love.
When at Mass, use your entire self to listen to God speaking to you. You may be surprised at what you “hear.” God speaks to us in unexpected ways – are we ready to listen to that still small voice? Here are some beautiful words to meditate on this week. Read them to yourself, but also read them out loud. Share your thoughts and join in the discussion. Let us all be more mindful at Mass and learn the loving art of listening.
“Much of the liturgical celebration involves the faithful in listening, especially the proclamation of the Sacred Scriptures. In the ritual posture of listening we rediscover our vocation to be called, as the prophets were called, to feed on every word that flows from the mouth of God.
“. . .The Christian knows that accepting the divine initiative in one’s life means listening, following, being open to guidance. These are the characteristics of a person captured by the Lord’s call.
“. . .listening becomes an authentic human and spiritual experience. To find the roots of our vocation in listening means to be receptive to the Creator through the Holy Spirit. We should be a living ‘Here I am’ before God and sing of his life-giving fidelity in the word proclaimed in the liturgy and lived in daily life.**
“Listening is important because it leads to loving. Recall the twofold action of the sacramental economy: God’s initiative joined to human response. . .It is God’s word that draws forth our repentance and desire to reactivate or deepen our friendship with God; it is God’s word spoken in the scriptures and in those who surround us and minister to our fears and our pain that helps us become ready to join our suffering with that of Christ; it is God’s word spoken by one we love or by a community of seekers that draws forth from us that self-donation which is our acceptance of vocation and mission. It is because of the word of God which is the gift of God that we are able to respond, to join ourselves to Jesus dead and risen, to reciprocate in love, to receive and to return love.
“Listening leads to loving. And we act out our loving as we turn to the table of the Eucharist. Think of the actions that we perform, each one a different way of loving: preparing, remembering, begging, storytelling, offering, petitioning, praising, embracing, dining and leave-taking–to love and serve the lord.”***
*Reprinted from Saying Amen: A Mystagogy of Sacrament by Kathleen Hughes © 1999 Archdiocese of Chicago: Liturgical Training Publications, http://www.ltp.org. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
**Reprinted from Words and Gestures in the Liturgy, Antonio Donghi © 2009 Liturgical Press, http://www.liturgicalpress.com. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
***Reprinted from Saying Amen. Used with Permission.