Hearing or Listening?

3.8.18  Thurs.  Wk 3 – Lent  (II)
Jeremiah 7:  23 – 28
Gospel  of  Luke  11:  14 –23

†Jesus was driving out a demon [that was] mute, and when the demon had gone out, the mute person spoke and the crowds were amazed.  Some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.”  Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.  But he knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house.  And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.  If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people* drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges.  But if it is by the finger of God that [I] drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe.  But when one stronger* than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils.  Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.      The Gospel of the Lord.


Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                      Hearing or Listening?

Hearing seems like a fairly simple process, the sound goes into our ears and into our head where we make sense of what we heard.  Have you ever heard God speaking to you?  Have you students ever heard God speaking to you?  No?  Most people never hear God speaking to them.  In fact, most people go through life doing the best they can; trying not to hurt people, while hoping to make the right decisions.  Often, we are just weighing pros and cons to make our decision because we don’t really hear God.  Unfortunately we won’t get very far in the spiritual life this way.

  1. Peter Nixon writes: “It is often more comforting to live within the boundaries dictated by our tribe, whether that tribe be – ethnic, religious, familial or spiritual.  There we can enjoy the psychological safety that comes from living among the like-minded.” (Give us This Day; Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN; March, 2018, p.99)  Often we choose to follow the crowd because that is what is most comfortable; we don’t like to rub people the wrong way.  But God is calling us to something new – to life with Him – to intimacy with Him.  We read this in the prophecy of Isaiah: “Listen to my voice, then I will be your God and you shall be my people.  Walk in the ways that I command you so you shall prosper.” (Jer. 7:23)

Well – the Israelite people did not prosper in the Old Testament – they followed their own desires and that led them to exile in Babylon for seventy years.  They heard God’s voice through the prophets, but they did not “listen”.  Listening is different than hearing.  Hearing is, again, when sound comes in my ear and goes to my brain.  “Listening” is what happens when the sound goes from my brain into my heart – and then out into some action – doing something, an act of the will.  How often has someone asked you to do something?  How often has your mom said to you: “Do the dishes”.  (speaking to the students)  And she says it again: “Do the dishes”.  And she says it a third time: “Do the dishes”.  And you said: “Mom, I heard you”, but you don’t do the dishes.  Did you hear your mom?  “Yes”.  Did you listen to your mom?  No, you didn’t listen to her at all.  That’s the difference.  Those who are married may have had this experience with your spouses.  You told them to do something and they say: “I hear you!  I hear you”!  Well, they did hear you, but they didn’t listen to you.  So you see, there is a difference between the two – a difference between listening and hearing.

The ancient Israelites heard God’s message but they did not listen.  †Jesus spoke His word to be heard, but they did not listen to Him, their hearts were hardened.  “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts”.   And just like them, when we stop listening to †Jesus; we end up turning our back on God.  Isn’t this the essence of sin?  I want to do my will, rather than God’s Will.

A person who listens to the voice of †Jesus, is like that strong person in the Gospel today who is fully armed and is able to guard his house.  He guards his heart and soul from the evildoer.

That’s what we do when we listen.  “The words of God are spirit and life” – and when we listen to those words we become stronger.  One reason we can’t listen is because we are too distracted; we are rushing here, we are texting there.  We never take quality time with God; we rarely sit quietly and pray.  Spiritual balance requires silence and solitude; times of quiet when we can listen to God, where His words go from our head to our heart and then to action.

On Ash Wednesday, just two weeks ago – what did †Jesus say that we heard in Matthew’s Gospel?  What did He say about prayer?   “When you pray – go to your inner room and close the door and pray to your Father in secret”. (Matt.6:6)  He was talking about the time to quietly listen and pray to the Father.  Maybe your excuse is – you’re just too busy, you have family, you have schoolwork, you have to go to work.  How can you find time for silence and solitude with a busy schedule?  You see – once we are grounded in prayer, the heart can become quiet and we become centered in the Lord.  Then we take that centered-heart out into the world and we can find solitude anywhere – even in the busyness of life.

Servant of God, Madeleine Delbrel, was a 20th century French laywoman and spiritual author and she wrote:  “True solitude is not the absence of people – but the presence of God.  To place our lives before the face of God, to surrender our lives to the movements of God – is to roam free in a space in which we have been given solitude.”  You can find solitude right here in mass even with me preaching to you.  You can still find solitude among all these people, because what is essential – as you hear the Scriptures read – the Homily preached – the prayers recited is – are you hearing or are you listening?  Do the words stop in your brain or do they enter your heart?  Do you respond with your life and your daily routine and daily responsibilities?  Even at this mass – you can experience solitude if your heart is quieted, because we have prepared our hearts through those moments of closing the inner door and praying.

Again from Madeleine Delbrel: “If the irruption of God’s presence in us occurs in silence and solitude, it allows us to remain thrown among, mixed up with, radically joined to all the people who are made of the same clay as we are.”  We can find the presence of God even in the midst of chaos if our heart has been quieted and we walk centered in the Lord, because we have prepared our hearts to those moments of quiet.

In the Gospel today, †Jesus said: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me – scatters”. (Luke 11: 23)  Are we with †Jesus or not?  It appears that †Jesus does not leave any room for a lukewarm response.  Do we listen to Him, allowing His words to enter our heart and then acting on those words?   Or simply, do we hear His words and not care?

In the Letter of James we are taught this: “Be doers of the word – and not hearers only – deluding yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer – he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror, he sees himself then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like.  But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres and is not a hearer who forgets – but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does”. (James 1:22-25)

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.