Active Listening

Jul 14, 2020

Today’s reflection is another spiritual lesson from Fr. Michael Schleupner. Fr. Mike will be with us in August for our Directed Retreat and we look forward to welcoming him back to the Center. Let’s take a few quiet moments to reflect on this lesson from scripture.

Active Listening

Recently I heard it said that hearing is a passive activity, while listening is active. That distinction is very helpful in appreciating today’s gospel.

Jesus tells the familiar parable of the sower and the seed. The four kinds of soil represent us – four ways that we can receive God’s Word. Jesus says that in all four instances, we hear God’s Word.Active Listening

But, to follow the parable, only one kind of soil really takes in the seed and produces fruit. This means that we – if we are to be like soil – need to go beyond hearing the Word. We need to listen – a very active, engaged exercise.

I see this listening as involving three steps: 1) mind, 2) heart, and 3) body.

The mind step means that we intentionally try to take in and understand the Word. For example, what does Jesus mean by telling us to forgive others? Am I just to ignore hurts and let myself be subject to abuse? Or, am I to see that getting back at others is a dead end and stop returning evil for evil?

Next, the heart step means that we see how the Word applies to us. Is there someone whom I have not talked to because of some past hurt? Have I been talking down that person to others? Am I holding on to the hurt and consumed with anger and vengeance?

Finally, the body step means that I resolve to do something. So, I may decide to stop saying negative things about them. I may even be willing to relate to them in some way. Or, even though I am not open to reconciliation, I decide to pray for them and be forgiving in that way.

Bottom line: it’s not so much what we hear, but how we listen. And our listening to the Word of God is very important. The 1) mind, 2) heart, and 3) body steps are a way to listen well.

~Father Michael Schleupner