We are all familiar with the game of Telephone. It was used in celebrations of the parish community when two teams were formed and competed for points in various activities. In the telephone game, each team was given a sentence to pass on to the teammates by whispering in the ear of the person behind them in a line each team formed. The team that was closest to the original words would be the winner and get the points allotted.
Even when one knows the object is to listen carefully and pass on what has been heard the results are often hilarious. Because of distractions, thinking you understand and do not, emotions, boredom, and hearing difficulties, what is passed on is not what was intended.
To hear it is necessary to listen and a priest member of a diocesan research team gives the readers of the Catholic Digest some thoughts on listening.
He recounts an incident in his life as a child. On a rainy day, his father called home to ask his son to bring the father's umbrella to the bus station. The son knew the way his father would come home after work and thought his father would be very happy if he were at the subway station to give his father the umbrella before he took the bus. However, there were so many coming out of the subway exit that he did not see his father and had to return home with the umbrella.
When he arrived home he saw his father's shoes at the entrance to the house and before he took off his shoes his father appeared. "Why did you go to the subway station when I told you to go to the bus station?" his father asked somewhat upset. He answered crying: "I thought that I would make you happier if I was able to give you the umbrella before you took the bus." The father put his hand on the head of the child and said: "I told you to go to the bus station didn't I?" No matter what you think may be better, what you have promised to do is what you need to do. In the future you will keep the promise that was made won't you?"
As a child, he wanted to make his father happy but ended up doing the wrong thing. This incident has always stayed with him. He was somewhat upset when his father scolded him but after some thought, he was able to understand his father's situation and feelings. In dealing with others we often fail to understand the situation and judge incorrectly.
His thoughts in the article turn to Jesus and how he felt after his many teachings and the way they were received. We sometimes think what we are doing is pleasing to Jesus when we do what he has told us not to do. What I think is the right thing to do can be the opposite of what Jesus wants. The dynamics involved in the spiritual life should be present when speaking and listening to others. To listen to others with complete attention and with the ears of the heart is difficult.
Hear means that sounds come into your ears whether you want it or not, while listening means that you consciously pay attention to what you hear. When our mothers told us to do something we wanted, we listened when it was something we did not like, it went in one ear and out the other.
Listening attentively is not something that comes naturally. When we are talking to another person we need to listen with our whole being to what is being said. When Jesus speaks to us in the Scriptures this should be our attitude to be attentive giving our undivided attention to what is being said.
It requires that we put aside our worries, anxiety, stubbornness, prejudices, and sit at the feet of Jesus in the way Mary of Bethany did. In the way, the two disciples listened to Jesus on the way to Emmaus. When we in our daily lives can experience the presence of Jesus and open ourselves to his words we will be open to the great gift of grace.