January 14, Listening

This is what the Scripture pages seem to be saying to me, and I can be completely off base. Nobody else has to agree with any of this. Scripture Readings can be as personal as I want them to be, or not personal at all. It’s my call. In the Gospel Jesus and disciples begin to get to know each other. The Psalm is “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will”. In the First Reading, Samuel says, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”. This all seems to point to my being aware of and even knowing Jesus without determining what kind of Jesus I am willing to accept. Jesus’ disciples ask to spend time with him so they can get to know him. I have to keep asking myself – am I truly listening or am I telling Jesus what I expect him to say to me, to make me feel comfortable  about where I am and where I think I’m going?

Responsorial Psalm, “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will”. What is his “will”? I remember being taught for years that God has a plan for me, and if I follow it I’ll be “okay”, whatever that means, and if I don’t follow it I won’t be “okay”. Usually it had something to do with getting to heaven later after I die, and involved keeping some rules and believing the right things, etc. Could it be, though, that God’s will for me is a relationship we work out together with every choice and decision I make? I ask “what are you saying to me in this?”.  And the discerning begins again. Sometimes things are clear, other times much less so. There is little certainty, but plenty opportunity to trust, which becomes an ongoing experience with all the ups and downs, failures and missteps that life has to offer. The one thing that keeps getting smaller and more remote is fear. No matter how I judged myself or how others judged me, which at times was painful, Jesus was encouraging me and inviting me to get to know him even more. It seems everyone has to be perceived to have failed at different times in their life, and this certainly has been true with me. Yet in each painful experience I have come to know Jesus in completely new ways that would not had happened without my messing up. As difficult as some of these experiences were, I wouldn’t change a thing. In all of them I met wonderful people I would not have met otherwise, many of whom I didn’t appreciate at the time.

As I was reminded this morning by a wonderfully surprising text from someone I knew long ago, today is the anniversary of something that sent me in a whole different direction in my life: I had my first heart attack, a pretty good one. This really changed my life, as have the other ones that have been coming after it. One thing I learned back then was how not to treat other people who are having their own hard time. I don’t know what is going in them as they deal with whatever it is. I need to ask the grace to be caring and compassionate. I don’t have to know everything, I just have to really and sincerely care and go where it takes me. At times this is a hard lesson to learn especially with my cynicism. I need to be reminded that I don’t know everything and I don’t have all the answers of how other people should live. They have enough pain and don’t need me butting in.

The Psalm says: “I have waited, waited for the LORD, and he stooped toward me and heard my cry; and he put a new song into my mouth, a hymn to our God”. This is a good description of what happens when I’m serious about being open to Jesus happening in my life, no matter what is going on, in the good and the not so good. It is not someplace I get by thinking or reasoning, only by being open without any conditions, trusting and willing to be led. Sometimes thinking can get in the way because what is going on in my life at any given time might go beyond anything I can think up, maybe a whole new understanding of Jesus that has never occurred to me before, and this can be unsettling. This is not a one time thing, but happens over and over because each time I come to know God I want to stay at that point. But there is always more, and I have to be pushed time after time. There is nothing I can do to make God be present in my life, because God is already there. Otherwise I wouldn’t exist at all. All I can do is pray, live in a way that lets me become aware of God being God in and around me. This always involves people.

In the Gospel Story the disciples ask Jesus, “where are you staying?”, another way of saying “we want to know more about you”. Jesus answers, “Come, and you will see”, and so they do. This happens time after time as I ask this same question, wondering who Jesus is in my life and wanting to know him better. There’s always something different, probably because I’m at different points in my life and recognizing Jesus in different ways is the Spirit helping me grow. So, if I believe the Spirit is guiding me, I might ask some awareness of how all this is happening, some understanding of what is going on, without laying down any conditions.

“Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Am I listening, or am I saying what I want to hear? Am I willing to grow or do I want to stay where I am, feeling comfortable and not interested in change that can be unsettling? Do I need answers, or can I live with uncertainty? God doesn’t change, but how I am aware of God is always changing, simply because I’m changing. Coming to know Jesus in my life, trying to be open to the Spirit, is an ongoing journey that takes a lifetime. As recent spectacular sunrises have been making clear, God meant it when He said, “behold, I make all things new”. God is doing this continually, and it is for me to try to be alert to this happening. I don’t need to explain everything, just to try to be aware of God being God, to wander and wonder, open to possibility. God often happens through people, so I have to be open to recognizing God in the people in my life without deciding how all this happens. The way I treat people, anybody and everybody, is how I’m treating God, and I’m not doing too well here. God is somehow in everything, even the terrible tragedies happening all around. Can I learn to be open to this? Is God saying something to me? Suffering is deeply personal, and with all that is going on, is God waiting to happen through me somehow? Don’t know. Just sayin  .  .  .