Radical Listening

Radical Listening

I Maccabees 3:1-24; Matthew 17:1-13

Through  the years I am asked, “Tell us a story of success?’ “How many people have you helped?” Grants require numbers to be given. We get no grants. Success is determined by numbers.

    Two thoughts:

    First this past week I have been threatened both physically, and verbally using the internet as a tool.; I texted two friends, one an attorney, and not one word back; I tried to contact others, not one word back; I sit here in fear, in emotional pain; And felt totally, and I mean totally alone. Two people sensed the pain and responded, one 17, and the other 20. Of course those who needed to talk, of their pain, kept calling and coming by–a number not homeless–they needed someone to listen.

    Our social media world, our world of political divisiveness has created an age of uncaring, and of not being present to people. It is about money, prestige, and focused on those who make the money, have the money, the prestige, and youth.

    As a child and adolescent I was raised by a village of caring people, who practiced radical listening. My ministry is one of radical listening–I no longer take volunteers on the street, mostly because they can not listen, they simply do not see the value in listening. They fig-it go into stores, wander off, tug at my shoulders to move faster.

    Elizabeth Gilbert wrote: “You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.” We need to dedicate our selves to the path of radical listening–to move our eyes off of our small screens, into the faces of people who have flesh and blood, are dirty, rude, and mean, and listen, and see them respond in love and caring.

    Secondly our scripture from I Maccabees tells of the persecution of the Jews because they refused an order by the State to also worship the state gods.

    There was a young woman who called me crying, because she was a Muslim, and was told she could not enter a place to receive food unless she took off her head scarf; some countries are now requiring that. Many years ago in my first job in California I was told to remove the cross I wear, it might offend someone, I refused. The State, nor no other organizations has no right to violate a person’s religious practice. shows prejudice, and is demeaning. I know, I am judged for being a priest all the time, for the way a minority have acted. People fail to see the good that the majority of clergy actually do. People fail to see the good the majority of each religious practice does.

    This too stems from our lack of face to face communication. We allow our fears, to determine the way we treat people, and in so doing isolate us from others.

    Fr. Henri Nouwen hits the nail on the head when he writes:

“The first questions are not “How much do we do?” or “How many people do we help out?” but “Are we interior-ly at peace?” . . . Jesus’ actions flowed from his interior communion with God. His presence was healing, and it changed the world. In a sense he didn’t do anything! “Everyone who touched him was healed” (Mark 6:56). . . .

When we love God with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul, we cannot do other than love our neighbor, and our very selves. It is in being fully rooted in the heart of God that we are creatively connected with our neighbor as well as with our deepest self. In the heart of God we can see that the other human beings who live on this earth with us are also God’s sons and daughters, and belong to the same family we do. There, too, I can recognize and claim my own beloved-ness, and celebrate with my neighbors.

Our society thinks economically: “How much love do I give to God, how much to my neighbor, and how much to myself?” But God says, “Give all your love to me, and I will give to you, your neighbor, and yourself.”

We are not talking here about moral obligations or ethical imperatives. We are talking about the mystical life. It is the intimate communion with God that reveals to us how to live in the world and act in God’s Name.”

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



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