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Father Muench Says...

Learning to listen

January 20, 2021

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today let us talk about listening. You see, I believe that listening is essential to a good Catholic spirituality. This morning, I celebrated the morning Mass. The Gospel reading at Mass was from the first chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel. This reading described the early days of Jesus’ public ministry. This reading speaks of the way in which the apostles and the Hebrew people were so impressed with Jesus’ teaching and preaching. St. Mark writes: “The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught as one having authority.”

To understand and appreciate the power of Jesus’ teaching would not have been effective unless the apostles were not good listeners. Today the message of Our Savior is not effective in your lives unless you know how to be a good listener of the Lord’s message. Too many of us, myself included, are not good listeners. Our spirituality will be powerful only if we become good listeners of the message of Jesus.

First of all, Jesus reaches out to us to teach us through the Sacred Scriptures. At Mass, the Scriptures are important. It is good and important to read some Scripture during private prayer. However, we must be good listeners. We must not miss the Lord’s message that comes to is again and again, leading and guiding us, showing us the way to live well and how to discover God’s great love and peace.

Jesus teaches us each time we take some time to pray, each time we pray at the celebration of Mass. The Lord Jesus teaches us and preaches to us. We must be ready. We must and can listen to the Lord’s message, a message that is alive with the love of the Savior and the power of the Holy Spirit. It is so easy to miss the Lord’s message. I like to believe that in prayer we will find Our Lord’s message when we listen with our heart as well as with our ears. Our heart must be open and loving, or we will hear nothing. Scripture tells us that Jesus came to soften our hearts. The events of life can harden our hearts, so that the message of the Lord cannot reach us.

The message of Our Lord often comes to us each day in small, yet real ways. I believe the Lord speaks to us often, and we must not be afraid to recognize the message and to listen to the Lord. I would like to share an example with you: I am suggesting to you the example of music – listening to music at Mass or in prayer. We may discover the Lord in a very special way. I have noticed this in the power of a symphony orchestra – powerfully bringing a message of peace, a message of love.

I am not a musician. I confess I do not understand music well. I guess I do know what I like. I know the music that truly touches my soul. I have been helped by many great musicians to realize that music can be one of the ways that my Lord reaches out to me – the kind of music that I have learned to listen to with my heart as well as my ears.

I must admit that even now as I am getting older, I am just now learning of how powerfully music made a difference in my prayer life. I had to be taught how to listen. I was surprised that the Lord can be speaking to me when I truly listen. I have been gifted with a great niece, A.C., a wonderful musician, who has guided me to learn how to listen to music, how to love listening to music. I thank her for her guidance in this regard.

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