Tuesday, February 17, 2015

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

“An argument in apologetics, when actually used in dialogue, is an extension of the arguer. The arguer's tone, sincerity, care, concern, listening, and respect matter as much as his or her logic - probably more. The world was won for Christ not by arguments but by sanctity: "What you are speaks so loud, I can hardly hear what you say.” - Peter Kreeft (Catholic apologist & professor of philosophy at Boston College)

Gospel text (Mk 8:14-21):
The disciples had forgotten to bring more bread and had only one loaf with them in the boat. Then Jesus warned them, «Keep your eyes open and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod». And they said to one another, «He saw that we have no bread». Aware of this, Jesus asked them, «Why are you talking about the loaves you are short of? Do you not see or under¬stand? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that don't see and ears that don't hear? And do you not remem¬ber when I broke the five loaves among five thousand? How many baskets full of leftovers did you collect?». They answered, «Twelve». «And having seven loaves for the four thousand, how many wicker baskets of leftovers did you collect?». They answered, «Seven». Then Jesus said to them, «Do you still not understand?».

Listening is hard. There are lots of obstacles: people don’t always communicate clearly, or we might react emotionally to what we’re hearing. But perhaps the most common obstacle to listening is when we think we already know what someone is trying to say, and we don’t pay close enough attention to his or her words. Our minds are already full of our own thoughts.

It appears that the disciples are guilty of this in today’s Gospel reading. After a busy time of ministry and travel, they have their minds on their next meal. When Jesus tries to give them a spiritual warning, they assume he is talking about food. Jesus spends some time trying to show them that he’s not worried about the next meal. He has already shown that he can provide food! No, he wants to talk about some much larger issues.

This story highlights the fact that as hard as it can be to listen to other people, it can be even harder to listen to God. It takes work to begin to see things from his perspective, to be able to hear what he wants to say to us.

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