4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Is Anyone Really Listening?

The vision of Jesus was a prophetic one. It was a call to change the world by changing the hearts and minds of those living within it. This was a radical and social response to life and God and to one another. The problem that Jesus faced was a narrowness of vision on the part of those around him. But more significant is the fact that they may have "heard" what Jesus was saying, but they weren't really "listening." One cannot respond to a call if one doesn't first listen.

inyourhearingIn every religious tradition there is always the temptation to claim exclusive possession and knowledge of all the ways in which God works. Jesus read a passage from the prophet Isaiah describing the long awaited Messiah and declared that this prophecy had now been fulfilled: "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." He was in effect announcing his own claim to be God's chosen one for the liberation of his people.

Those around him were both "amazed" and angered. When Jesus reminded them that it is always difficult for local folks to believe that one of their own might be much more than they had given him permission to be - or that they, too, might have an important vision to share - they became arrogant, driving him out of town and trying to throw him down the mountain.

They just weren't listening.

The reading from Corinthians is, of course, St. Paul's reflection on Love. It is found in that part of the First Letter to the Corinthians where Paul speaks about the nature of the Christian community to the church of Corinth, which was divided over many issues. Paul tells them that all gifts flow from the Holy Spirit. To one the Spirit gives the gift of wisdom. To another he gives the gift of understanding. Some can work miracles. Others can prophecy. All the members of the Church are gifted with different talents. One gift is not more important than another and one member of the community is not more important than another. Together with both their divisions and their gifts they comprise the unified Body of Christ.

Like the community in Corinth we, too, are divided on many issues. We, too, are a broken people and in need of healing.

We willingly put ourselves into opposing camps - warring with one another over what it truly means to be a "faithful follower." Some desperately hang onto the past. Others hope to move into the future. Most of us, however, have a hard enough time dealing with the present.

We are an arrogant bunch and arrogance not only separates us from one another but from Him as well. Our values have been reversed and it is difficult for us to see that God has turned attention to the lost, poor, sick and outsider. We can become insensitive and uncaring. We can be tempted to condemn or criticize all who do not pray or worship or believe as we do. We can refuse to listen to the whisperings of the Spirit in others.

The challenge given us in today's readings goes far beyond the simple narrow-minded attitudes of those who refuse to listen. The more loving we are - the more people our love embraces as we transcend labels and prejudices dividing people - the more likely we will be rejected, persecuted and hated, perhaps driven out of town to the edge of the mountaintop.

The revelation that Jesus came to bring is much more than dogmatic pronouncements or theological definitions of who the Father is and what God is all about. Jesus makes it very clear that we must open our ears to the revelation that He brings. We must look at the world around us  and at one another through His eyes, and live by the prophetic vision of His Gospel. It is that which allows us to claim that we belong to Him.