We live in a world of noise. There are constant sounds all around us. Listening can be a challenge. It can make us feel weak or ignorant. The strong ones speak out. The intelligent ones talk. When we look at Jesus, we see him listening in every exchange he had. Consider his encounter with Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52). After Bartimaeus calls out, Jesus stops and asks him, “What do you want?”
Jesus listens. He hears Bartimaeus’ concern. The same happens with Mary and Martha, the woman at the well, Peter, James, and John, and so on. Jesus listens. Paul Tillich writes, “In order to know what is just in a person-to-person encounter, love listens. It is its first task to listen.” And, our first task is to listen.
Larry King once said, “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” We, too, learn by listening. We grow when we are open to God. We see God when we have genuine encounters with other people. And, we experience these results when we are listening first, and speaking second.
This week, I am at Holy Cross Abbey. It is a spiritual retreat and I am keeping (mostly) silent. The discipline of silence is training me to listen better. In part, this is due to the lack of recipients for my self-avowed insightful commentary. It is also helpful to slow down, hear the bird, wind, rain, and other natural sounds, and listen for God. God still speaks. When we miss the words of the divine, it is not God who has been silent. We have not been listening.