Text: Luke 19: 28-40
How many times have we said one thing while we meant another? A casual greeting, ‘How are you?’ doesn’t necessarily lead into a genuine conversation. When we are preoccupied with things that weigh us down, when we have so many things on our to-do-lists but nothing seems to be getting done, we can’t really hear what other people say. Sometimes it’s a culture of niceness that prevents speaking from the heart.
One day I went to borrow a tool from my neighbour. I asked the couple, ‘how are you?’ The wife was hesitant to say anything, but I could tell by looking at her facial expression that there was something going on in their lives. But the husband told her, ‘just say okay.’ Later I learned that they were going through a turmoil.
Sometimes it’s a level of trust that would determine how much we want to disclose. The fact that there are so many things we should consider before we open ourselves up to others speaks about what kind of world we are living in now. There is so much talking, but rarely can we find listening. There is so much information out there but we seem to know so little. We hear cries of the world every day, but we live as if we are separated from those who cry out for compassion and justice. We try to fix problems on the surface overlooking the root cause. For example, addiction in its various forms indicates the pain that has been accumulated over time and left unhealed. We need to shift our focus on healing rather than fixing, more soul work than external or visible change.
We must reclaim one of our essential capacities as human beings – a sense of hearing – to be able to hear beyond words. People can remember only 15 % of what they are told. That’s why people, especially those we try to change won’t listen to us. In fact, we can’t change anyone just by telling them what to do. Verbal communication is not the best way to convey what we really mean. Can any of you remember what was said in the reflection last Sunday? However, you can easily remember your feeling while singing hymns or hearing the choir. A deeper communication doesn’t depend on the exchange of words. Of course, we need clear communication in many situations in our daily living. (Especially when you order your favorite dish in your favorite restaurant.) What the world needs is not more words but a more personal, reciprocal and respectful communication: a heart to heart, soul to soul, and deep to deep conversation with everyone and everything. It is so powerful that it can shake our ground, our core belief that shapes who we are and what we do. It is so profound that most people feel intimidated or even threatened because of the unknown newness or change as a result of such encounter.
The dramatic entry into Jerusalem begins with the sense of hearing. The whole multitude follow Jesus as they begin to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for the deeds of power that they have seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” This powerful anthem recognizes that it’s a Kairos moment, the opportune time that God is about to create something entirely new and different for the whole creation. Even though their loud hosanna will change to crucify him in just a few days, Jesus can hear the voice of God through the voices of the people. Jesus’ heart is tuned in to the heart of God. That is a real threat to the oppressive system which produces violent injustice. Those in authority, the ones who benefit from the system complain to Jesus in an effort to keep the voices down. “I tell you, if these were silent” said Jesus, “the stones would shout out.”
Jesus’s talking about his sense of hearing. He can hear God’s voice not only through the crowd, but through the whole creation. Indeed, the voice is heard throughout his life and ministry. At the Jordan River he hears the most affirming words we all share, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased.” Even before he is born, there comes a heavenly chorus, “Glory to God in heaven and peace on earth.” The gospels consistently shows a deep level of communication between God, Jesus and the world responding to each other simultaneously.
What do you hear when you hear people cry out for justice and compassion? In this interconnected world, it’s impossible not to be affected directly or indirectly by what’s happening in the world.
The reverse is also true. It’s impossible not to affect others by how we live our lives directly or indirectly. In urban settings where everything seems to be disconnected and separated, it’s easy to forget where our source of life comes from. Our drinking water comes from the Shoal Lake 40 First Nations reserve, located on the Manitoba-Ontario border. They have not officially had a reliable drinking water source for more than 20 years while their local clean water is flowing to the residents in Winnipeg, us. The hydro dams in Northern Manitoba have affected Indigenous communities and the environment, changing the ecosystem, causing massive flood, deforestation, and the loss of many lives and of their way of life. Can we think about our Indigenous sisters and brothers, those who have been affected by our way of life and the system we all benefit from every time we drink clean water and use the power?
The willingness to listen beyond words, to the sound beyond silence is what we can see in the last chapter of the life of Jesus. Why would he kneel down and pray so earnestly in the mountain if listening was not his priority? “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” Listening makes us truly human, putting us back to the right place so we can correspond with God and the world simultaneously. We can hear God’s voice through the cries of others. If they were silent, the stones would shout out.