Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle C (Apr. 17, 2016)

I remember years ago when I was still a seminarian, being invited toCorby Hall at Notre Dame for dinner with the Holy Cross priests andbrothers. I ended up sitting at a table with members of our order whowere professors in variety of disciplines, and a distinguished guest fromFrance. In the course of the meal, the guest began telling a funny story –in French. I recall being pleased that I was getting the gist of the story ashe went along. It was about a meeting between Winston Churchill,Charles de Gaulle and Charlie Chaplin. It felt good to be keeping up insuch illustrious company.

Then suddenly the punch line arrived, and I missed it completely. Ididn’t understand a single word of it. Everyone else at the table waslaughing heartily, and there I sat, totally lost. Some of the others werelooking at me with pity on their faces, and before I could explain that I’donly missed the punch-line, a couple of them broke off the generalconversation to explain the whole story to me, while the others lookedexcruciatingly bored. I was feeling so humiliated that I missed the punchline again. If anyone knows it, please write the Garaventa Center and letme know preferably in English.

Our readings at this Mass are all about listening. In our FirstReading, for example, virtually the whole city of Antioch turns out to hearthe word of the Lord. If Jesus, our Savior, is the Word of God, thenclearly, for a Christian, listening is extremely important. God is speakingto each of us in the Gospel. If we don’t listen, if we are not attuned toGod’s voice, we can be lost — lost in a far more profound sense than I wasduring that French dinner conversation.

Listening isn’t easy. It’s been claimed that:

We hear half of what is said.
We understand half of what we hear.
We believe half of what we understand.
We remember half of what we believe.

This can prove to be a problem for students around final exam time.It also doesn’t give God’s Word much of a chance to break through andtransform our lives.

The first rule of being a good listener is to stop talking. We canreally only do one thing well at a time. We can talk or we can listen. So,if we want to listen well, we must stop talking. Obviously, I don’t meanwe should stop talking to other people. I mean when we are listening tothe Word of God, we should stop talking to ourselves.

We all do this. We have a kind of nonstop monologue going on inour heads. While the Gospel is being read, we are wondering what thatperson three rows over could possibly see in that fellow she’s with, orwhy Obi-Wan Kenobi didn’t remember R2-D2 and C-3PO in “A New Hope,”or why the presidential candidate we regard as the obvious choice isn’tmore popular. Then suddenly the priest is saying “The Gospel of theLord,” and everyone is responding, “Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ,” andwe realize we haven’t heard a word. We’ve missed the most importantpunch line in the world.

In our Gospel today, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.” So let’stry to stop talking to ourselves, and tune in to what the shepherd has tosay.

Fr. Charles Gordon, C.S.C.

Rev. Charles B. Gordon, C.S.C., is co-director of the Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture at the University of Portland. He writes and records a regular blog called “Fractio Verbi.”

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