Jan Richardson, quoting
one of her teachers in the book In Wisdom's Path, writes: "
... the miracle of Pentecost was not that people spoke in different
languages, but that they understood one another. This means they
must have really listened to one another, must have really heard the
remarkable words springing from each other's mouths. It is that
gift, that miracle of listening that I hunger for in the church,
where passion for our own positions and beliefs often dims our
ability to truly hear one another. .... I thought of how that
Spirit-filled group from every nation under heaven had, for one
shining moment, gotten it right."
Isn't it interesting how
much emphasis we place on talking? The gift of the Holy Spirit
called "speaking in tongues". The importance of the President or
Prime Minister speaking to the Nation. The Pope speaking to a
gathering. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping people do well in
public speaking. Simon and Garfunkel sang about speech and listening
in "Sound of Silence" ... while the Monks at Weston Abby encourage us to
Without a listener, all
our words just fall into a "black hole". Without a speaker, we have
no one to listen to. On a final musical note, it's much like Frank
Sinatra's "Love and
Both are desirable. Both
are needed. They go together like a horse and carriage.
Luke tells us that Jesus
... " went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the
Sabbath day he went into the synagogue as was his custom. He stood
up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him.
Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because she has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
I am sent to proclaim freedom for
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”"
The people listening were
"amazed at the gracious words that Jesus spoke".
Jesus speaks "graciously"
to people. When he speaks to those who abuse power, he speaks the
truth plainly, with strength, and with an openness to
reconciliation. As the people said: "He speaks with authority"
to heal and make whole.
It would be fun to go
through the Gospels looking at the way Jesus speaks.
Part of speaking well, is
listening well. So often our self interest and stubborn opinions
cause our ears to go deaf. We all know the story Luke tells about
Jesus' family on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Joseph thinks Jesus is
with Mary; Mary thinks he is with Joseph. "After three days they
found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers,
listening to them and
asking them questions." There is an active cycle here. Speaking, listening,
Jesus is earnestly seeking
knowledge so he can, as Luke tells us: "... grow in wisdom and
stature, and in favour with God and man.
Often in the Gospels, the
people who hear what Jesus teaches are described as those who
"are/were listening. They seem to be the ones who understand Jesus'
teaching. Then he sends them to others to speak words of "good
Language, words, silence,
so often separate us. Pentecost seems an excellent time to reflect
that God's Spirit urges us to speak to others in ways that bring us
together and heal us. That same Spirit encourages us to listen to
each other, seeking to understand what is being said.
When we listen with our
hearts as well as with our ears, we become participants in building
a world of grace and beauty.
Jan Richardson ends her
reflection with a poem entitled simply: Pentecost
It is not the sparks
caused by our difference
that haunt me
but the brimstone
of those bent
I have felt the template
on my flesh,
I have seen the wounded
and the scalded.
and I am not persuaded
that if we look alike
God will love us more.
I believe God loves the languages
of those struggling to speak
the words embedded in our flesh
of every shape and hue.
And I believe God blesses
every space where we are welcomed
to speak with tongues of fire
and hear with hearts aflame.
Barbara Cooper OP
Vancouver Island, BC Canada