Hearing and Listening – Monday, 25th week in ordinary time – Lk 8:16-18
There is a difference between hearing and listening. Often people say, ‘I listened to the other’ when in reality they only heard the other. It is true that they can repeat verbatim what was said without missing a single detail but it is also true that what they repeat does not communicate the heart of the speaker. To listen is to not only be able to repeat content but be able to communicate the emotional talk and the message that accompanied the words said.
Jesus asks us today to “pay attention to how we listen” (verse18)and in doing so He makes a demand of His disciples to not just hear His Words but to understand the message behind those words. He has just finished preaching the parable on the sower or the parable of the soil as I like to call it and ends it with these words, “ But for that in the good soil, these are the ones who when they HEAR the word hold fast in an honest and good heart and bear fruit with patient endurance.”
This teaching is followed by three proverbial sayings which reflect the theme of hearing and listening and must be understood only in the context of ‘hearing and listening’ the word of God and not seen as three separate or disparate teaching (as some preachers do).
The first teaching is taken from architecture and the placement of light in a house, namely in the foyer or vestibule which is a smaller room as you enter a house before you proceed to the other rooms. For Jesus, lighting a lamp and hiding it under a jar or under a bed is foolishness for it does not serve the purpose for which it was intended especially in a place like the vestibule, for the purpose of this room is to lead one to other rooms. In the same way the disciples are to spread the message of Christ which they have been hearing and listening and not keep it to themselves but rather take it to others.
The second saying is linked to the first by the word ‘light’, which reveals all truth and is connected to the message of the kingdom of God and highlights the fact that this word, this message of the kingdom cannot remain a secret even if the disciple fails to proclaim it. Eventually the message of the kingdom will become known and ‘come to light’ and hence it is incumbent on the disciple to spread the message of light. The knowledge of the “mysteries of God’s kingdom” are not esoteric or gnostic. It is not meant to be reserved for a sect or group within Christianity. It must be shared with others and every disciple who “hears the word and listens to it” is bound to share the message.
Finally Jesus says, “pay attention to how you listen” for hearing without understanding the word leads ones to miscommunicate the intended word and leads to a total loss of hearing. Hence the ‘heard’ word must be pondered upon till understanding sets in. A hastily communicated word might end up in misinterpretation. Those who pay attention to the word and listen will be given the grace to understand more and to the others who do not, what they have will be taken away.
Fr Warner D’Souza
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