Chapter Talk – 19th Sunday of the Year – August 8, 2021, cycle-B
“It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God’. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me’” (Jn 6:45). If we took just this sentence into prayer, how are we each being addressed by these words of Jesus? There exists within us the reality that God is ready to teach us and, presumably, at any given moment. However, the key to being taught by God is ‘listening’, paying attention, hearing the silent promptings of the Spirit. I suggest that this ‘listening’ is needed right now for each of us and for our community life. Listening and being taught belong together in the inner life and are what inspire, inform Spirit-led decisions in our lives. Listening is how we are taught; deep listening that goes beyond ego demands is how we learn about ourselves and learn about the ways of God. Our heart gets shaped, formed, reformed as we listen and learn. To be taught means the heart and mind are open to receive and to be changed by what is heard. Such profound openness is the fruit of listening and is what enables God to breathe his wisdom and understanding into our lives.
From the prophet Isaiah: “Pay attention, come to me; listen and your soul will live” (Is 55:3). Listening brings life…always. From the prophet Jeremiah: The Lord God says: “Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord!’ No, they will all know me, the least no less than the greatest” (Jer 31: 33-34). Here is God saying: you will all know me…you will learn about who I am, and you will learn about yourself, for you cannot know me without the growing knowledge of yourself. It is a grace-filled encounter as we are taught by God about who God is and who we are.
Pope Francis in The Wounded Shepherd uses this image: “the apostolate of the ear” (p.9). Could we not say that this is the vocation of monks and nuns? And imagine if this were one description of a monastic community, that is, that the sisters embody this apostolate of listening. What do we each need to change so that indeed our listening goes deep enough for us to be taught? Turning to the first verse of the Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict it says: “Listen…to the teachings of your master and turn to them with the ear of your heart”. Fr. Terrance Kardong in his commentary writes: “This first verse explains the full significance of listening: complete attention of the whole person; good will; implementation” (Benedict’s Rule, A Translation and Commentary, p.5).
The encounter of listening and being taught, this converts the heart so that how it thinks, feels, values, and acts, in the moment, is united with the heart and mind of Christ. At vigil we heard an excerpt from Fr. John Donahue’s commentary on the Sunday’s gospel. One particular sentence stood out for me: “The bread that Jesus gives as his ‘flesh for the life of the world’ is what Jesus teaches and embodies, principally the love command” (Hearing the Word of God, p.101). Each Eucharist is a sacrament of encounter with the One who is the ‘Way, Truth and Life’. Each eucharistic encounter calls for a listening posture so that we will be open enough to be taught the ways of love, the ways of surrender so that our lives, our very flesh in Christ may become ‘life for the world’.
Sr. Kathy DeVico,, Abbess