Second Sunday of the Year Reflection
At Cana it is Mary the mother of Jesus who is the one known and trusted in the wedding venue. She is the one who instructs the servant, “Do whatever he tells you.” We must therefore conclude that Jesus and his disciples have been invited because of Mary. Some have suggested that this is probably the reason they ran out of wine. Jesus himself speaks of “having fun”; “The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners (Lk. 7:34)!’”
Listen and you will live!
As within all families, so even within the strongest bonds of unity, we find the tendency towards discord and strife. Observe closely the human desire to be the source of what is good, true and beautiful. “I am the most level-headed person I know.” Within the pious community this translates as, “this is orthodoxy while that is blasphemy”. The very terms being used contain the seeds of this discord, for the word orthodoxy proposes “right thinking”, while blasphemy is something “disordered” from my “right thinking” and your disordered views. Here we may come to view the total spectrum from Jesus totally divine with hardly a spark of humanity, to the totally human Jesus who becomes subject to my will!
How then are we to seek unity and peace in the midst of all this cacophony? How are we to seek this unity and peace without imposing our will, without oppression and especially without degrading and belittling the thinking and views of others?
Listen and Do! This means life!
At the Baptism of Jesus in the waters of the Jordon, “A voice came out of the cloud, ‘this is my beloved; listen to him.'” As Jesus is about to reveal himself to his disciples at Cana changing water into wine, “His Mother said to the servant, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’” Divine origin and human mother; the two natures of Jesus the Christ that points to our own nature as human and divine. Our nature cannot be different from the source of our being. Jesus brings divine initiative and human will into confluence.
Both the heavenly source and the earthly Mother do one thing: point to their common Son, Jesus, and command us to both listen and to obey his word.
How then is it possible to both listen and to obey Jesus, the Word of God incarnate? We have enough examples throughout history of Scripture being abused for the foundation of heinous acts of evil, abuse and oppression. This is in total opposition to the confluence of the divine initiative and human will, which must always seek the good of the other that is the very nature of God, the nature of Love.
Made in the image of God each one of us as both a free will and an inborn desire for the supreme good according to each of our abilities. This is the central paradox of faith that touches every aspect of our Christian life. The faith teaches us that in every relationship, including prayer, “unless our prayer is in accordance God’s act of will it lacks the distinctive grace of prayer; unless it is an act of our will it does not the merit of being our prayer at all, but breathed through us without becoming ours.”
True relationship in prayer calls for the action of divine initiative and human will coming together. The dynamics of the divine-human interplay are complex and many great saints in our history have misheard or misunderstood the divine imitative and acted contrary to divine will.
Our Span of Attention is 22 Seconds
Research on listening indicates that we spend about 80% of our waking hours communicating: writing 9%, reading 16%, speaking 30% and 45 to 50% of our day engaged in listening, to people, music, TV, radio, etc. About seventy-five percent of that time we are forgetful, pre-occupied, or not paying attention. One of the factors influencing this statistic is that the average attention span for an adult is 22 seconds. It’s no surprise to note the length of television commercials, usually anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds.
This constant change of focus makes it more difficult to listen for any significant length of time. Immediately after we hear someone speak, we remember about half of what they have said. A few hours later we remember only about ten percent.
3 Practices for True Listening
To become a true listening presence no matter what the situation require three practices that are essential elements of this spiritual discipline: cultivating silence, slowing down to reflect, and becoming present. This is the very nature of Mary who is given to us as our mother, the contemplative who holds all these things in our heart, the beloved mother of Jesus that always leads us beyond herself to her own beloved son.
Listening is more than hearing words and more than an action; it is an art. One of the common themes of an art is the sense of being at one with it. Thinking about listening as an art changes our perception of what it means to listen. Rather than thinking of listening as an act, something we “do,” we recognize it as an art, something that we “be,” as a part of who we are, a way of being. We become a respectful listening presence.
We choose whether we wish to listen. Learning that we have a choice to listen or to not listen is a very powerful insight. We discover how much better we listen when we know that we have chosen to listen, and how much less stress we have when we know that we have consciously chosen not to listen.
Listening to Another is the Greatest Gift We Can Give Them
Listening to another with rapt attention may be the greatest gift that we can give to each other. When two people listen deeply to one another, we sense that we are present not only to each other, but also to something beyond our individual selves, something spiritual, holy, or sacred.
Once we think about listening as a gift that we may either give or receive, we find a new light shines on the value of listening.
One of the keys to developing the capacity to listen more deeply is daily practice. Most of us know that if we want to excel at any skill we need to practice. It is in the daily practice, the spiritual discipline that we prepare ourselves to listen.
Then, when we need to listen deeply, we will be able to focus on the speaker, remaining fully present and aware of what they are saying and who they are being. Becoming a listening presence is critical to learning how to hear and understand “the other.”
Saint Francis’ Prayer before the crucifix
Most High, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity, sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out Your holy and true command. Amen.