I bet I say the word listen a hundred times a day. I say it to my children when working on chores, driving in the van, getting ready to go somewhere. I tell them to listen to me, to listen to each other, to be quiet and just listen! Do your parents or teachers or friends or siblings ever say that to you?
How do we listen? We hear a lot. We have the music, the news, the noise of the world right in our ears. Not just speaking to us across a few feet of space between us and a machine, but piped directly into our heads with phones or earbuds or headsets. Hearing is not listening. Listening is more than just the action of your aural nerve transmitting frequencies. It is actively attending to the source of the sound. It is a form of respect. It is so hard to do properly. Our minds are compartmentalized, crammed full of inordinate details, disturbed by clanging and clamor so much that we must fight every moment against being dragged away by other anxieties, or tempted away by other attractions. We drift. We take a mental vacation. We are miles away, when we should be right here, listening.
Does this happen to you at Mass? (It happens to me, but I bring my young children to Mass and spend the time telling them to be quiet and listen.)
“If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” Can we hear God’s voice at Mass? We hear the voice of the cantor, the voice of the deacon, the voice of the person beside us in the pew, the voice of the irritable youngster behind us. If we pay attention, we realize that our brains register numerous separate voices, as well as the rote response of the crowd. Where is God’s voice?
During His time on earth, Jesus taught in the synagogue and people there heard His voice. He spoke “as one having authority.” How could he do otherwise? I always imagine that people who actually experienced the physical presence of Jesus had to perceive the immensity of Him. Maybe they couldn’t explain this feeling, couldn’t put their finger on just what it was about Jesus that felt so vast. If Jesus showed up to give the homily at Mass this weekend, would we be listening?
God can be speaking through the priest, or through the music, or even through that mad toddler, and the mom trying to quiet him. The psalmist says “harden not your hearts.” A hard heart is locked up. A hard heart goes along with a hard head—both are closed and unreachable.
Why take the chance of missing His voice at Mass this Sunday? He might have something to say specifically to you. Are you listening?