The title of my homily for this 2nd Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Prayer as Listening.”
People who want a deeper - wider - higher - richer - better - prayer life - soon find out prayer is difficult.
People who take time to pray soon find out they are poor - when it comes to trying to pray.
They realize they are distracted. They realize they look at their watch. They realize they stop praying. They realize prayer can be the pits.
If we see “Prayer as listening” - the title of my homily - we can get a glimpse at what is happening to us when it comes to prayer.
Start with listening to each other. It’s a good education principle to go from the known to the unknown.
It’s difficult listening to people right in front of us - our kids, our spouse, our parents, our friends, those we work with.
Listening is difficult.
We don’t look another in the eye. We look at our watch. We judge the other - thinking inwardly, “Oh no not again. I heard this story, this speech, this complaint, over and over again.”
Another speaks. They tell a story about their grandkid or their vacation to Disneyworld. It triggers our vacations and our grandkids going to Salisbury University or Stanford or AACC - Anne Arundel Community College - and at their first breath - we see an opening and out comes our story.
Listening is difficult.
Now if it’s difficult to listen to another whom we can see visibly - how much more difficult it is to listen to God who is invisible?
That message, that learning, that reality is said loud and clear in the First Letter of John - who uses it in terms of love. In Chapter 4: 20 we can read, “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers and sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”
So if we can’t listen to others, or if we find it difficult to listen to another, how much more difficult it is to listen to God?
Listening is difficult.
Prayer is difficult.
TODAY’S FIRST READING
Today’s First Reading from the first Book of Samuel continues the theme we heard in yesterday’s first reading from Samuel. It’s all about listening.
Prayer is all about saying to God. “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
What a great way to begin any time of prayer, when you come here for Mass or you go to the Eucharistic Chapel - or you have a special Prayer Chair in your house - just sit there and breathe, relax, and say, maybe with open hands, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Tom Green, the Jesuit, used to say, “Okay God, you got 5 minutes to say something. Then listen.” Then if God says nothing - or nothing you hear, read a psalm or Bible text or say a prayer, and then say again, “Speak Lord, I’m listening.”
Or have a journal note book. Put on the top of a blank page, “January 15, 2018. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. What are my dreams for our world, our nation. Then think. Then pray. Then listen.”
Or listen to today’s gospel. Read it. Think it. Pray it.
It talks about fasting for starters.
Maybe I have to see fasting in a new way. Fasting from talking. Fasting from TV. Fasting from dust. Fasting from laziness. Whatever.
Today’s gospel is about seeing a relationship with God as a marriage.
Maybe I need to listen better to my spouse. Ask him or her where they are on playing cards together - walking together.
That last one. Right now it’s cold. But I heard at thanksgiving that two of my nieces - maybe more - have started the practice of taking nice walks with each other in the evening especially - after supper. They are all in their 50’s. I don’t know if it started with Margie and Jerry. Margie had cancer last year and she went through serious surgery and chemo or radiation. Ah - and I assume they realized time be limited. And my nieces all talk to each other.
The title of my homily is, “Prayer as Listening.”
If we listen to that first reading again, we might hear something that we didn’t hear the first time. I know I didn’t. It’s a question. “Does the Lord so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices / as in obedience to the command of the Lord?”
Then Samuel says, “Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams.”
There’s two hot button words: obedience and submission. I know a married woman who writes to her church’s office when a certain reading is coming up from Saint Paul - that they use the shortened version of Paul’s letter telling women to be obedient to their husbands.
Well if we realized obedience is listening - and we ought to be both listening to each other - which can be a great sacrifice and fasting - then life would be so much sweeter for all - and prayer life better as well.