Every month I get 10 copies of a new CD – and several of them in the last year have been great – so great that I think everybody should listen to them. So, we have three hundred copies of each to give away. Today I’ve got Religionless Spirituality –it’s timely because you hear people say – well, I’m spiritual but not religious – or – I can pray without going to church – I don’t need religion. This CD is the best I’ve heard to help those people. Pick one up on the way out. I’m not taking donations for it today because I want everybody to listen to this CD – and if this goes well, I plan to continue to get three hundred copies whenever a particularly good one comes along. If this sounds like a ministry you’d like to support, talk to me – or – make a donation in the CD rack.
I think it’s important what we listen to – and actually that is the theme for today. It may not sound like it at first… Today’s Gospel is the familiar story of the Sower and the Seed. We’ve heard it enough that we might think we know the story and not really listen to it. I’d ask that we all simply try to focus all of our attention on listening this morning. There are a couple of themes you might notice: The most obvious theme is that WE are the dirt in the story. You might also pick up on the fact that God is a bad farmer.
But then, Jesus says something odd after that parable: “whoever has ears ought to hear”. Who is he talking about? Anybody here NOT have their ears with them today? Then He is speaking his word directly to you today….. Listen.
So – you probably noticed the first theme of the Gospel: we are the dirt. How much the word of God sinks into us depends on whether we are good soil.
You might also have noticed that God is a horribly wasteful farmer. He spreads the seeds of His Grace and Love all over creation… letting it drop wherever it will – so that most of it is simply wasted, never bearing any fruit. Picture a tractor with a seed spreader driving down the highway with the feeder wide open…. That’s how extravagant God is with his word.
But the main theme is actually about Listening: God is always speaking His word to us. Always. Every situation – every moment. Do we hear Him?
I was standing outside last night talking to someone – and suddenly she mentioned the sound of the crickets – and it amazed me that until that moment, I hadn’t even noticed how loud they were. That is like God talking to us – because He is speaking constantly, His voice becomes background noise and we don’t hear it.
God is speaking His word to us in every situation of our lives. How is it that We often don’t recognize Him speaking –
- It’s part of the background noise
- It’s drowned out by the “important” things in life
- Or we just don’t WANT to hear Him
- Or maybe nobody ever taught us how to hear Him
Every week we come here and hear the Word proclaimed – and a homily to follow. God is OBVIOUSLY speaking to us here at Mass… but how much of it falls on good soil? If the parable is a good representation, then at best, 25% of the people in the pews are actually listening AND changing their lives.
Many people have lost the skill of listening. Part of it is too many distractions: for example: I cannot have a serious conversation if the TV is on in front of me… my eyes and mind keep wandering back to it. I know myself well enough that if I need to concentrate on what somebody is saying, I have to turn off the TV.
Likewise, most people with cellphones have a hard time listening to anyone if they’re holding their phone… a text comes in and you glance at it and all you can think about is how you’re going to respond.
Also – if somebody starts talking to us and we think we already know where they’re going with it, so we only half-listen. Oh – and then there’s the fact that most people really just want to talk about themselves –so while they’re pretending to listen to you, they’re really just thinking of what they want to say next….waiting for you to shut up!
God is always speaking His word to us. Anyone with ears ought to hear! But listening doesn’t come easy – we have to train ourselves to become effective listeners.
There was a TV show back in the 70’s called Kung Fu. I know most of you never heard of it, so let me give you the back story: it was about a Chinese man named Caine who moved to the US in the old wild west. He was a shoulin priest – and a master of kung fu. He was always having flashbacks about his training in the monastery as a boy. The scene I remember more than any other was when Caine first met Master Po who was to be his teacher. This old man was blind from cataracts, and he insisted that Caine fight him… Caine refused – I can’t fight a blind man, it wouldn’t be fair! The Master insisted, so Caine took a swing at him and was quickly knocked to the ground three times. This is the conversation that took place right after that:
Master Po: never assume because a man has no eyes he cannot see. Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Master Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Young Caine: No.
Master Po: Do you hear the grasshopper that is at your feet?
Young Caine: [looking down and seeing the insect] Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Master Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?