Listen, and Let Go
GUIDING LIGHT - Rev. Fr. Benjamin Sim sj (The Freeman) - March 17, 2019 - 12:00am

The First Sunday of Lent presented Jesus’ victory over Satan’s attempt to put his Sonship to the test.  This week’s Gospel carries that theme an important step forward. 


We might simply read today’s Gospel as the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration, a strange but amazing transformation that proves his divinity. But the Church places it at the beginning of our Lenten journey for another reason. Jesus, God’s Son, will exercise his Sonship through “the passing, which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem.”

A voice from heaven announces that Jesus is the beloved Son of God.  However, it is not enough simply to know who Jesus is.  One must also listen to what he demands.  The mission must go on.

Perhaps we can take two themes for our Lenten penance.

First, for your Lenten penance, listen!  Begin by listening to one another, to the people, whose lives touch yours. That’s not very easy.  Most conversations are not conversation at all.  Either they are monologues: I wait patiently until you have finished – since I must be polite – and then I say exactly what I would have said if you had not spoken. 

One time while I was giving a leadership seminar in Bulacan, two ministers of the “Born Again” approached me and requested to talk to me.  They asked me to explain certain passages in the Scripture. I asked them, “Are you trying to find an answer or are you here to argue? If you are here to find an explanation, I’ll explain it to you.  If you are here to debate or argue, you better go home, or go to the movies.  Or, we’ll both be wasting time.” 

They said they were looking for an explanation. But after about an hour, they kept going back to the same questions like a broken record as if I had never said anything!  At which point, I suggested that they better go to the movies and let me do my work instead of wasting our time.

Second, the listening in a debate: I do indeed listen, but only for the wrong word or false phrase at which point I proceed to intercept, raise objections and destroy what was being said. No, true listening is to give yourself totally, for that moment or that hour, to another, to put yourself into the other’s mind, the other’s heart.  It means you hear not mere words, but a flesh-and-blood person.

Remember our Blessed Mother?  She listened to an angel in Nazareth and to angels in Bethlehem, to shepherds and wise men from the East. 

Remember St. John Vianney, famous parish priest of Ars in France?  Twelve hours a day in the confessional, he listened – not simply to sins but to anguished hearts.

It is not easy to listen.   For, to listen is to risk.  It takes your precious time, often when you can least afford it.  You take on other people’s problems, when you have enough of your own.  You must pay attention to people who cannot express themselves too well, or who are too confused.  If you are a good listener, people will “dump” their problems on you. 

If you listen, someone may fall in love with you – and that can be a burden you do not care to bear.  If you listen, the swindlers and syndicates make you their “suki,” their favorite victim.

But risk will be matched by a matchless joy.  For listening, really listening, is an act of love; and so it is wonderfully human, wonderfully Christian. 

In my seminary days, I used to think that what I can offer the Catholic world was the right answers to their questions and problems.  Now, I come to others as I am, with my ignorance, weakness, sinfulness, my own fears and tears.  I share not words but myself; I am there. 

And that, my sisters and brothers, is your Christian mission and mine: to be where another can reach out to us.

Next, listen to Jesus.  That was the Father’s command from the cloud: “Listen to him!”  Why?  Because here is God’s Revelation in the flesh, the Word God speaks. 

How does Jesus speak to us now?  Vatican II rings loud and clear: “[Christ] is present in the Church.”  Do you believe that?  Do you really believe when the Lector proclaims,  “This is the word of the Lord?” 

If you do, how do you listen?  As excited as Moses listened to the Lord on Mount Sinai?  As open to God as was the teenage Mary of Nazareth?  Do you “marvel,” like his townspeople of Nazareth, at “the words of grace” that fall from Jesus’ lips?  Do you exclaim, as the two disciples exclaimed on the road to Emmaus, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us… while he opened the Scripture to us?” 

Or has repetition dulled your appetite, made Jesus Christ less exciting than the movie celebrities, and basketball star?

Third, listen to the world around you.  God speaks to you through the things He has shaped.  For God could not create anything, if it is not a reflection of some perfection of His.  There is no blade of grass, flower, no bird that does not speak of Him.  The typhoons and earthquakes reflect His power, the mountains reflect His majesty, surging waves His irresistibleness, a star sprinkled sky His breath-taking loveliness. 

If I miss their message, it is because I am not tuned into God, am not listening.  God speaks to us through history, through human events, the signs of the time, the economic crisis, the peso plunge, the bloated pork barrel, the extra-judicial killings, the shameful graft and corruption, God cries out for justice, honesty and integrity. 

Amidst the rampant killings, kidnappings, drugs, and unchecked crimes, God is crying out for peace and justice.  In the child labor and the aborted babies – God cries out for mercy, compassion and love.

My brothers and sisters, if you want to “do” something for Lent, if you want to share in the dying-rising of Jesus, simply listen:  Listen to one another, listen to Jesus in the proclaimed word, listen to the Lord speaking through the things and people that surround you. 

For your Lenten penance, please listen! For your second Lenten penance, let go! 

In our journey to life, we die in two ways, for death comes to us from two sources.  Death comes, first from sin – from the sins of our own making and from “the sin of the world,” all the weight and burden of human transgressions  from Adam to the Antichrist. 

And “the wages of sin is death.”  The results of radical sin, of “mortal” sin, are within each one of us.  It de-creates us, mis-shapes us.  In radical sin we are different persons, for life has left us.

To the death that is sin we have been dying since our baptism.  And the dying is never ended.  For dying to sin is not something negative; dying to sin is turning to Christ, and turning to Christ is a constant conversion. 

If sin is rejection, dying to sin is openness.  I am open to God’s presence poured out on me through every petal that opens, every breeze that caresses my skin, every man and woman whose eyes meet mine, the awesome presence of the Holy One himself inside me.  In dying to sin, we live to God.

Death comes to us in second way: from the very nature of the human journey – even apart from sin.  For human journey to go forward, to move ahead, you must let go of where you’ve been, let go of the level of life where you are now, so as to live more fully. 

Essential to the human pilgrimage, to the Christian journey,is a self-emptying more or less like Christ’s own emptying: Time and time again from the womb to the tomb, you have to let go.      

And to let go is to die a little.  It’s painful, it can be bloody; and so we hang on, clutch on to our yesterdays like Linus’ blanket, refuse to grow.  But no, it will not do – especially for a Christian.  You are commanded to let go.  Not invited – but commanded: “Follow me!” 

The comforting thing is you let go for a purpose.  You let go of yesterday because only by letting go, only by reaching out into a new future, can you grow into Christ, grow in loving communion with God, with the crucified images of God, with the breath-taking beauty of God’s creation.

Only by dying, not only to sin but also to yourself, can you come fully to life.  So, for your Lenten penance… let go!

There is a danger that the discipline of Lent might turn us in on ourselves.  This must never happen in the Christian life.  Comforted by the truth that we are listening to the beloved Son of God, we must, nevertheless, come down from our mountain and join Jesus in his journey of love and service through life.  Like him, we walk towards whatever future God plans for us.

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