Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
We heard in the Gospel “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” In the time of Jesus, there were two places of worship in Israel: the Temple and the synagogue. There was only one Temple; it was located in Jerusalem. But there were hundreds of synagogues; every village had one. The Temple was a place of sacrifice. There Jews offered to God such things as lambs and doves. The synagogue was a place of instruction. There Jews listened to God’s word and tried to apply it to their lives. As you’d expect, the synagogue service and the temple service have their counterparts in our Mass.
The first half of the Mass is like the synagogue service. It’s called the Liturgy of the Word and deals with reading Scripture and applying it to our lives – just as Jesus did for the people of Nazareth in today’s gospel. The last half of the Mass is like the temple service. It’s called the Liturgy of the Eucharist and deals with offering sacrifice – just as Jesus did at the Last Supper. There we read: “Likewise (Jesus took) the cup after (the disciples) had eaten, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed (that is, sacrificed) for you.’” Luke 22:20
Let’s now look more closely at the first half of Mass, the Liturgy of the Word. Our main activity during the Liturgy of the Word is listening to Scripture. The key word here is listening. “Well, how do we listen to God’s Word?”
The answer is that we listen to it in three ways. We listen with the ear of the mind. We listen with the ear of the heart. We listen with the ear of the soul. First, the mind. How do we listen with the ear of the mind? We do this by trying to understand God’s Word. We do more. We try to make God’s Word come alive for us. For example, St. Ignatius of Loyola did this by closing his eyes and imagining that he was present in the synagogue of Nazareth, listening to Jesus. For instance, he’d imaging the emotion that certainly choked the voice of Jesus when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” And he’s imaging the excitement that certainly electrified the congregation when Jesus said, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And so listening with the mind means not only understanding God’s Word but also making it come alive. The second way we should listen to God’s Word is with the ear of the heart. This means we take God’s Word to heart. We try to see how it applies to our own life situation. Years ago Charlie Pitts owned the construction company that built the Toronto Subway in Canada. The more Charlie’s business grew, the most his personal and family life suffered. One day things got so bad that Charlie turned to the Bible for help. As he read it one sentence suddenly leaped off the page. It was these words of Jesus: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” Luke 9:25
These words spoke right to Charlie. They said to him, “Charlie, this is what’s happening to you!” And so listening with the heart means taking God’s Word to heart and seeing how it applies to our own situation. The final way we should listen to God’s Word is with the ear of the soul. This means besides taking God’s Word to heart, we also talk to God about it. We do more; we do what Charlie Pitts did. We ask God to help us take the necessary steps to make our lives conform to his Word. For example, after Charlie Pitts prayed over his situation and discussed it with his wife, he sold his company before it destroyed him. Charlie went on to buy and manage a hotel and a golf resort. And the income from this enterprise was donated to the spread of the Gospel. The third step, then, in listening to God’s Word is talking it over with God to see what he may want to say to us about it. Of course, we don’t expect God to answer us in words. He usually speaks to us in a spiritual way in the depths of our soul. One thing more is true about God. He doesn’t always speak to us immediately, during the time of prayer. Often God does this outside the time of prayer, in the course of our daily life. For example, we may begin to experience a growing desire to do something about our situation. We may begin to get ideas on how to deal with our situation. We may begin to feel a subtle pull toward one of these ideas. All of these spiritual movements may be speaking to us in a wordless way in the depths of our soul.
We should listen to God’s Word in three ways: with the ear of our mind, with the ear of our heart, and with the ear of our soul. In other words, we make God’s Word come alive in our mind. We take it to heart. We talk to God about it and listen to what he might want to say to us about it.
God Bless You,