Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time, Modern

Mal 1:1b-2:2b, 8-10, 1 Thes 2:7B-9, 13,Mat 23:1-12

A familiar sight in my hometown were the ungated railroad crossings with the signs that said; “Stop, Look, Listen.” These were the instructions or maybe even the warnings to approach the crossings with caution and to use your eyes and ears to make certain no train was coming. The readings today brought back memories of these signs and how their basic message should be very much part of our lives as Christians. It is important for us to stop, look and listen so as to be attuned to the presence and message of God in our lives. It seems that our “To Do” lists are never completed because for every item we check off two more items appear on the list. Stop and put aside the lists, clear our minds of thinking about what else must be done, and quiet our souls so that we become aware of God’s presence. It is during the times when we stop and sit in stillness that we are able to look and listen to what God is saying to us and showing us. We become less focused on doing, and more aware of being.

There is the old saying, “practice what you preach,” that is usually used when someone boldly and freely gives advice to others who take it to heart and work at making changes in their lives so as to follow this advice. Then, their eyes are opened and they realize that the person giving the advice is not living it themselves. This can lead to becoming disheartened and disillusioned. Jesus calls on us to keep our eyes open and not to follow the bad example, or hypocrisy we see in those who instruct, but to take their good teachings to heart. Seeing what others do is only part of the message. Look at what we are doing in our lives. Do we see what we would like to be, or is the reality different than our hopes. Jesus words about the Pharisees are words that we should be mindful of. They talked a good talk and Jesus advised the crowds to listen to their teachings, but do not follow their example. It’s a word of caution to us that we can get caught up in saying the right things and giving the correct teachings, while not living them ourselves.

The first word in the Rule of Saint Benedict is; “Listen,” and he goes on to say, “listen with the ear of your heart.” True listening involves not only hearing what is said, but also allowing our hearts to absorb the message so as to truly listen and understand. In Mark’s Gospel Jesus asked the question to the crowds who were seeking a sign, but not listening to his teachings; “Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?” (Mark 8;18) How well do we listen? We hear the Word of the Lord in the Sacred Scriptures and if we listen with our heart something might strike us as the Lord speaking in a very personal way. It might be a word that brings us comfort during some trying time, or a word that helps put some decision we are struggling into perspective, or a word that reminds us of God’s faithfulness to us at all times. There are many other ways that God’s word can speak to us and guide us, but in order for this to happen we have to listen.

May we take to heart the message of these readings and take time to stop, look, and listen so as to me more attuned to God in our lives.

Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.