4 Aug, Saturday – Hearing But Not Listening

Aug 4 – Memorial for St. John Mary Vianney, priest

In his youth, John Mary Vianney (1786-1859) taught other children their prayers and catechism. As a priest, was assigned to a parish which suffered from very lax attendance. He began visiting his parishioners, especially the sick and poor, spent days in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, did penance for his parishioners, and led his people by example. Crowds came to hear him preach, and to make their reconciliation because of his reputation with penitents.

He has been declared patron saint for all priests.

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 26:11-16,24

The priests and prophets addressed the officials and all the people, ‘This man deserves to die, since he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.’ Jeremiah, however, replied to the people as follows:

‘The Lord himself sent me to say all the things you have heard against this Temple and this city. So now amend your behaviour and actions, listen to the voice of the Lord your God: if you do, he will relent and not bring down on you the disaster he has pronounced against you. For myself, I am as you see in your hands. Do whatever you please or think right with me. But be sure of this, that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood on yourselves, on this city and on its citizens, since the Lord has truly sent me to you to say all these words in your hearing.’

The officials and all the people then said to the priests and prophets, ‘This man does not deserve to die: he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.’

Jeremiah had a protector in Ahikam son of Shaphan, so he was not handed over to the people to be put to death.

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Matthew 14:1-12

Herod the tetrarch heard about the reputation of Jesus, and said to his court, ‘This is John the Baptist himself; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’

Now it was Herod who had arrested John, chained him up and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. For John had told him, ‘It is against the Law for you to have her.’ He had wanted to kill him but was afraid of the people, who regarded John as a prophet. Then, during the celebrations for Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and so delighted Herod that he promised on oath to give her anything she asked. Prompted by her mother she said, ‘Give me John the Baptist’s head, here, on a dish.’ The king was distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he ordered it to be given her, and sent and had John beheaded in the prison. The head was brought in on a dish and given to the girl who took it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went off to tell Jesus.

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“For in truth it was the Lord who sent me to you, to speak all these things for you to hear.”

Now that my son has reached toddler-hood, it has taught me a thing or two about parenting. I’m far from being the perfect parent, but if trying to raise one toddler is a challenge, imagine shepherding an entire unruly flock that does not listen. I have to mean what I say, else my son would never take me seriously, or worse, step all over me. If I threaten a punishment, I would have to really do as I say. If I promise a reward, likewise I would have to follow through with a treat. He has learnt that I really do mean business, and is learning to make his choices and check his boundaries.

I suppose we are like this too — when God speaks to us we sometimes do not listen. We question and ‘check’ our boundaries too, sometimes with undesirable consequences, but we – like our children – learn that there are consequences to our actions and boundaries that we should not cross. We know all too well what happened to the Israelites following their exodus from Egypt, when they disregarded God and worshipped a golden calf instead. You would imagine that after witnessing God’s miracles first-hand, they would be fully converted. But there were still the few whose hearts were hardened. Similarly, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart despite calamity after calamity until the ultimate sacrifice – the Egyptians’ first-born – was paid. Even in the reading of Jeremiah, he had warned that if the people of Jehoiakim did not repent their evil ways, misfortune and ruin of their city would befall them, as did the city of Shiloh hundreds of years before them.

History repeats itself yes, and sometimes we may have to be reminded several times before we take action or learn our lesson. If there are parents amongst you, you would only know too well the phrase, “I told you so!” or “Didn’t I tell you…?” or “Why don’t you ever listen?”. Maybe it is human nature to have selective hearing, or it is just the curious part of us trying to see how far we can push the line. We should be wiser, with the wisdom of hindsight and learning from our ancestors, but we never really are. But we can be, by asking God to open our hearts and exploring a deeper relationship with Him. If we have not built a bond with God, it is less likely that we would want to listen to someone that we are not close to, and even if we did listen, we would tune out almost immediately rather than being genuinely interested with what He had to say. God’s message is always to help us, not harm us. It is when we try to mix in our motives to justify what we think God is trying to tell us, that the message gets muddled up.

Let us then pray for the wisdom of discernment and the ability to drown out the ‘noise’ so that we can hear clearly when God speaks to us. Too long now have we had a one-way conversation with God, where we have been the ones talking; perhaps it is time now that we listen.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You have guided us always to do the right thing, and we pray to overcome our stubbornness and distractions to listen to You, even in the gentlest whisper of a breeze.            

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for Your infinite patience and guidance, especially when we refuse to listen. Thank you for not giving up on us.

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