Do you recall your parents saying to you as a child, “You must listen to mummy and daddy, we know what is good for you”? When mummy and daddy said, “Don’t go there… don’t do that… be polite,” what were our responses? Some of you are parents now and you might also find yourself saying similar things to your children. Only because you have gained much life experiences over the years and you hope for your kids to be attentive to what you have to say in order for them to be well-guided as they carve out their own life story. You know what would help their stories to be beautiful and meaningful. Parents know best.
Yesterday, we celebrated Good Shepherd Sunday or Vocation Sunday. I was blessed to be at the St. Joseph feast day to listen to the inspiring homily of Fr Lionel from Malacca. He highlighted that “shepherds” do not just refer to the priests and religious, and their answering the call of God to this specific way of life. Each one of us is a shepherd. Parent to a child, elder sibling to a younger, grandparent to grandchild, CEO to subordinates, uncles and aunties to nieces and nephews. In so many different ways, we play the role of a shepherd to others. He also mentioned that to be shepherds, we need first to be sheep. We need to listen to our Shepherd.
Shema Yisrael! Hear O Israel! Deuteronomy 6:4
“Shema Yisrael” are the first two words of a section of the Torah, and is the title of the prayer that Jews say in the morning and evening everyday.
When a scribe asked Jesus which is the first of all commandments, Jesus replied, “This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one, only Lord…” Mk 12:29
It is so important to listen to Jesus. How else can we be guided to live a beautiful and meaningful life? To be attentive, to be still and quiet, patient and well-disposed. To pay attention to what is stirring within, what the soft voice of God is trying to say to us.
When I am feeling mad at someone, which would be more life-giving for me and those around me? To go on being oblivious, unaware and throwing my anger at innocent parties? Or to sit still for a few minutes, listen to the anger within, listen to how God is inviting me to respond to this feeling? Perhaps He is helping me to understand the situation in another perspective or to understand the person who caused the anger, so that the fire in me can be extinguished and I need no longer be held captive by it.
When I see a child always wetting the bed at night, which would be more life-giving? To reprimand and punish her or to listen a little deeper at what this might be telling me of her inner struggles and difficulties, and attend to these?
The Good Samaritan acted the way he did because he listened. He listened to the voice within that told him of the suffering of the victim. He listened to the voice within that told him how sorry he felt for the victim. To the voice that told him he would not be able to be at peace if he were to pass by and do nothing to help. He listened too to the inability of the poor man to pay for his medical care, and to the voice that told him to give beyond. He listened and acted.
We listen so that we can respond instead of react. To respond in life-giving ways that also give glory to God. Isn’t it true that it is precisely in the need for our response that we have a platform to live out our baptismal promises and our Christian values? We listen to the plight of suffering people, to needs and respond by sharing what we have, be it wealth, time or energy. We listen, we allow our hearts to be moved, and we act. We listen, we learn and we grow. We listen, we change our ways, we inch closer to God.
Mary too was a woman who listened so attentively to God. To every word the angel spoke, to every teaching of her Son. She listened, kept all in her heart, and responded when the time was right. Listening to Jesus on the cross, she even took in not only John the apostle but the whole human race as her own, despite us being the cause of her dear Son’s death. Perhaps, she heard something deeper than just those words uttered by Jesus. Perhaps, she heard His plea, His deepest love for God’s people; she heard God’s thirst for our souls. And she took it upon herself to be the Mother of the whole world.
Listen, listen deeply, respond.
How much attention do we pay to listen?
How may God be inviting us to avail space and time, however small they may be, to listen as a sheep so that we become Good Shepherds?