Saturday, May 26, 2012

Learning to Listen

In silent contemplation, then, the eternal Word, through whom the world was created, becomes ever more powerfully present and we become aware of the plan of salvation that God is accomplishing throughout our history by word and deed. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, divine revelation is fulfilled by “deeds and words having an inner unity: the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them” (Dei Verbum, 2).

This plan of salvation culminates in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the mediator and the fullness of all revelation. He has made known to us the true face of God the Father and by his Cross and Resurrection has brought us from the slavery of sin and death to the freedom of the children of God. The fundamental question of the meaning of human existence finds in the mystery of Christ an answer capable of bringing peace to the restless human heart. The Church’s mission springs from this mystery; and it is this mystery which impels Christians to become heralds of hope and salvation, witnesses of that love which promotes human dignity and builds justice and peace.
Word and silence: learning to communicate is learning to listen and contemplate as well as speak.

This is especially important for those engaged in the task of evangelization: both silence and word are essential elements, integral to the Church’s work of communication for the sake of a renewed proclamation of Christ in today’s world. To Mary, whose silence “listens to the Word and causes it to blossom” (Private Prayer at the Holy House, Loreto, 1 September 2007), I entrust all the work of evangelization which the Church undertakes through the means of social communication.

Message for World Communications Day, May 20, 2012

Reflection – So we wrap up this little document, which took us a full blog-week to get through. ‘Learning to communicate is learning to listen,’ leaps out at me as a good sentient to ponder in this, although the whole passage is very beautiful.

There is such an anguish in the world today—at least I experience it as such—of miscommunication, failure to communicate. In matters political and moral, opposing camps generally talk past one another. Slogans are chanted. Invective is hurled. Straw men are constructed and destroyed in such volume one wonders where all the straw is coming from.

‘Learning to communicate is learning to listen.’ And this is important for those engaged in the task of evangelization. Certainly this is so because many of the Church’s teachings these days are hard ones for people to hear, and also because people have terrible misunderstandings and deep wounds around authority, the Church, ‘law’, that make it difficult if not impossible for them to sit still for a catechism lecture. We have to get where people are coming from and how they are hearing us if we are to be able to put our Catholic teachings into better language that has a chance of being heard.

But I think there’s something even deeper than those very real considerations. Learning to listen is vital to the New Evangelization for a more central reason. When I choose to listen to you, really listen to you, what I am communicating to you is that you are important to me. You matter. You are not just a passive audience for my doctrines and ideas; you are not just a scalp for me to hang on my convert belt; you are not a thing for me to manipulate and control by force of argument or personality.

You are a person. At the moment I am really listening to you, I am communicating in that listening that you are the most important person in the world to me. And this is a vitally evangelical act.

Because that’s how God is with each one of us, all the time. We have no idea, really, just how much God loves us, each one of us—you, me, your spouse, your neighbor, your best friend and your worst enemy. How much He loves us! And this love has to be communicated—that is the heart of the New Evangelization, without which all the doctrines and dogmas and moral laws are (literally) heartless.

We communicate God’s love by loving people, and it seems to me that to truly love people we have to listen to them. So we communicate love, the Gospel, and God Himself in a primary and indispensable way by listening to people. Learning to listen is learning to communicate

And so much happens in that listening. The Word blossoms in the other—God is already present there in that person, you know, somehow, in some fashion. It is our silent listening that fosters the life of God in that person—love grows, God grows in them. The Word becomes flesh—my flesh, your flesh, the flesh of the other person. It happens; I have seen it happen. And this is what we must do, it seems to me, if we want the Gospel to truly find a home in the hearts of men and women today.

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