Bottom line: Jesus is the supreme model of active listening. That happens at the Ascension where he becomes our great high priest at the right hand of the Father.
This Sunday we celebrate Jesus' Ascension. It's the fourth homily in our series, As I Have Loved You. At first glance the Ascension doesn't sound so loving. After all, it involves Jesus leaving us. As we hear today:
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.
Separation hurts. I am feeling it with the loss of my brother Greg. On Monday I was walking from the beach past Greg's home. Typically Greg would be on the porch. We would exchange a greeting and maybe he would give me some news about his grandchildren or his oyster farm. I'm barely beginning to realize he will not be there in the way he was before.
Separation hurts. The disciples felt that separation so much that Jesus sent two men in white garments to ask, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?"
We shouldn't look up to the sky for Jesus. His Ascension involves a deeper, more intimate union. That's what we seen in the Letter to the Hebrews: "since we have 'a great priest over the house of God,' let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust..."
One of our deepest needs is for someone we trust to listen. In that regard I think of my brother Mike. He is Greg's older brother. He has an ability to listen to people with curiosity. People would tell him some of their darkest secrets. Mike would have made a great priest. He became a pharmacist however. Teenagers, elderly, young dads would share their lives with him. We all have a deep need for someone to hear us, to really listen.
Jesus is that person. By his Ascension he exists outside of time. He has all eternity to listen to you and to me. He's the only one who knows you in all your brokenness and continues to love you.
Jesus became our great priest by entering the depths of our lives. St Paul says, "What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower (regions) of earth?" Jesus ascension begins with humility. He first came down to our level.
A comparison: I think of Cesar Millan, the "Dog Whisperer". He was able to humble himself and think on the level of a little dog and the dogs would respond to him with total trust. Just so, Jesus has humbled himself and he is our priest who deserves our total trust.
Because Jesus listens to us, he calls us to actively listen to others.
Recently I have been reading a book by a young African American priest named Fr. Josh Johnson. In it he quotes the famous African American novelist, Toni Morrison, "There is no such thing as race. None. There is just the human race, scientifically, anthropologically. Racism is a construct, a social construct..." Then Fr. Josh goes on to say, "Just as racism is a learned construct, so is the ability to empathize. To develop empathy, we must seek to develop the skill of active listening..." To learn more I encourage to you to read Fr. Josh's book, "On Earth as it is in Heaven - Restoring God's Vision of Race and Discipleship"
To become disciples we need the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us today, "I am sending the promise of my Father upon you". That promise goes back to the prophet Isaiah. We'll see the promise fulfilled next Sunday, Pentecost, when pours out the Holy Spirit upon us.
This Sunday we see that Jesus is the supreme model of active listening. That happens at the Ascension where he becomes our great high priest at the right hand of the Father.
From the Archives (Ascension Homilies):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru