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Father Muench Says...

Perfecting the great art of listening

Sept. 28, 2016

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Listening – one of the greatest gifts you can offer to your friends and to others.

Last weekend, I did quite a bit of driving.  For me, thanks to my niece Susan, that means lots of podcasts.  You know what I mean – those recorded programs, usually, discussions about news or sports or some such stuff.  The variety of subjects I have found truly amaze me. I have learned so much especially, while driving.

So, this last weekend I listened to a podcast by somebody or other about “listening.”  This fellow spent time reminding us, his listeners, that we are often poor listeners.  We often pretend to listen but really aren’t listening at all.  This speaker went on to tell us of how much we miss because we aren’t really “listening.”

Listening to this podcast on “listening” challenged me to analyze the way I listen.  Immediately, I had to admit that I am not a good listener.  I am often thinking of a thousand other things as someone is trying to talk to me.  As I listened to this podcast I began to think I would like to share his ideas with you.  And, of course, I wasn’t listening to all he was saying.  So I probably missed some of his stuff.

Yes, I confess to you I am not a good listener.  Usually, my mind is all over the place instead of truly listening to my friend.  I am as bad as the youngster who pulls out his or her telephone texting while pretending to listen to someone.  I would never pull out my telephone – I promise you that – but I do let my mind ramble.

Listening involves understanding.  There are times I don’t understand clearly even what someone texts to me or emails me because I simply don’t “listen” to what they mean as they write to me.  I don’t get the message.  I miss the insights; they are taking the trouble of sharing their feelings and thoughts and I miss so much.

Today, I want to add to all of this and remind you that prayer involves listening.  In prayer, we use words – our words and words of others – to bring our praise and hopes and dreams to our God.  There are so many blessed words that become our prayers: the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary.  We make the words of the Mass our words in prayer.

However, our time of prayer should also include a time to listen. Each time we stop our busy lives to pray, I believe firmly that the Lord has a message for us.  I have experienced that magnificent moment when God’s message becomes so evident to me.  However, I also know that too many times – because I was far from attentive – that I have missed completely any indication of God’s message for me.  I missed something! I was not open or faith filled enough to realize that God had a challenge for me.

I believe firmly that each and every day, God has something for us – an opportunity, a challenge – to make our lives better, to make our world a better place.  I know I must take the time to realize that the Lord has a message for me.  Each day the Lord has something special for me to accomplish for God.  This means that in prayer I must listen better when I come to the Lord.

This means I must be open in mind and heart in my spiritual reading or maybe while reading Scripture (there is always a message about me and for me). Maybe there’s a message for me in a song at Mass (that is why it is so important to read the words of the songs even if you are not a singer). The message may come through the pastor’s homily. It may be something that someone says to me.  Children have a wonderful way of bringing God message to us.

There are so many ways that God reaches out to us but am I listening?  I am reminded of a friend who taught me that it is important to stop and pray at times of confusion about what to do or say.  And God will get through to us – leading and guiding us.  To understand God’s message, we have to be good listeners.

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