Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The power of listening...

It always strikes me just how diverse the early Church was in its composition.   In this morning's reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we see Jewish men from various areas discussing the inclusion of the gentiles and trying to determine God's will in the matter.  Sometimes we seek to read it as if it simply happened overnight, but there is no indication that this decision was hasty or quick.    It says they were fasting and praying, and only when they had completed that did they lay hands on the two indicated by God and send them forth.  How long were they praying?  How long were they fasting?  We have no idea.    All we know is that they not only consulted God in the matter but likely had discussions and input from all involved.   They listened to one another.  They prayed with one another.  They experienced one another.  That's how important decisions are made in the Church.

I have been doing some fasting of my own lately.   I was sitting in my driveway yesterday watching some teenagers as they went around doing their thing.   Part of me realized I was judging their activity not based on what they were doing, but what I would have been doing at that age.  I think we are all bad about that, especially as parents.   "I know what it is like to be a teenager."   I do.   I don't know what it is like to be you, though.   To have your parents, your job, your teachers, your experiences.  Just like the group that decided to send Barnabas and Paul had to listen to one another and discern God's will based on a collective group, we too have to listen to one another to know what the fullness of the human experience is.   It may not be the same for you, as it is for me.  Your reasons for doing things might be completely different than mine.  I'll never know unless I listen.   I'll never understand if I do not attempt to stop seeing it from who I am and instead try to hear who you are.

Jesus tells us in the reading from the Gospel something similar.  Jesus speaks the words of the Father and our response to Christ is a measure of how we respond to the call of the Father.  It is how we listen to God, how we try to understand Christ, that determines our fate in the life after this one.   Our works and our deeds can either reflect the love of God, or they can be a refusal to accept his invitation to salvation and everlasting life.  We can't know what it was like to be Jesus unless we get to know Jesus himself.   That means getting to know the word written in the Bible, and not just stopping there, but continuing on to have a relationship with Him, the living Word of God.   Through His Church, through encounters with Him in the stories and experiences of those who are made in His image, and through our own prayer and fasting.   It may not happen overnight, in fact, I think we must continue to grow toward that ideal throughout our lives, but it is a journey that requires we take steps every day to step out of own singular, experiential existence and to share in some way the experiences of Christ and His Body.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in thy sight,
    Lord, my rock and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for Wednesday of the 4th Week of Easter: May 10th, 2017