Listen Freely

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

They brought him someone hard of hearing who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hands on the man. Leading him away from the crowd, he placed his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue and looking heavenward sighed and said, ‘Ephphatha’; ‘Be opened!’ Mark 7:32-34

Seeker,
What does it take to open your heart?

Are you following all the surface chatter;
that social media static—
a billion voices buzzing?

Inundated by a multitude of messages,
so much is being said
about the power and prerogatives of free speech,

but who is freely listening—
opening a receptive space,
leaning in close, with focused attention?

Myriad opportunities present themselves every day,
inviting us to incline our heads
and expose our core.

Listen carefully… to the master’s instructions,
and attend to them with the ear of your heart.

From the prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict

Though there are countless modes of communication,
and immeasurable ways to attend to life,
gentle listening is the silent language of love.

We can listen for the strike;
the clash and clamor of events;
action and reaction in the explosive cloud of crisis and conflict.

Then, there is heartfelt attention,
attuned to the lingering resonances;
residual whispers of lives barely noticed.

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. Henri Nouwen

When mistrust breeds fear, injustice brews resentment,
and violation begets revenge,
we are bidden to listen through threats and past tears.

Will we listen till we hear
our lives and our hopes,
echoed in the cries of other voices?

Dare we wade deeply enough into realities
to acknowledge their complexity
and our complicity?

Can listening be our avenue
to share pains and bring hidden possibilities to light?
Otherwise, how might we come close to understanding?

Incline your ear to me; answer swiftly on the day when I call. Psalm 102:2

Leaning in to listen to another,
paying heed to a need beyond my own,
re-places the center of gravity outside me and mine.

We can ill-afford to reject
this defining orientation of our humanity;
an authentic expression of our God-likeness.

May we not abandon listening
but rather listen with abandon,
throwing wide the hinges of our hearts.

For healing happens when together we listen
to the LIFE within our lives; to the timeless tale
playing out behind and between our varied accounts.

We can listen our way out
of anger, if we let the heart
soften the wolf we keep inside.
Mark Nepo

Much harder than simply hearing;
we listen with our eyes,
with our faces and our entire being.

As you attend to the wind and the song-birds’ chatter,
to sea creatures and the silent stars,
let listening be your first, most enduring prayer.

And may you listen freely with the Great Listener,
for signals of resilient hope and signs of tenacious life
beneath the events of our times.

joe

Sacramental Touch

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

While travelling, a Samaritan approached and, seeing the victim, was moved with compassion. After bandaging the wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, and placing the victim on his own animal, the Samaritan led them to an inn to take care of the one who had been injured. Luke 10:33-34

Seeker,
Who remains untouchable in your life?

Have you ever seen
fevered victims;
precious people plagued by merciless disease?

Have you looked
into the anguished faces
of families facing indescribable loss?

Have you noticed the quiet courage
of medical workers and body bearers
defying danger to tend carefully to diseased bodies?

To the lost Christ shows his face;
to the unloved He gives His embrace;
to those who cry in pain or disgrace,
Christ, makes, with His friends, a touching place.
John Bell

When curious children come close
to someone’s wound—a cut, a graze, a burn—
instinctively they fear that by touching it they will share the pain.

As adults, we recoil from people in distress,
afraid perhaps
we might be implicated; drawn into their suffering or shame.

And now the aberration of abuse has eroded trust
and left us fearful;
suspicious of physicality; the touching sacrament that heals.

When Jesus touched leprous skin and blinded eyes,
or took a dead child by the hand,
he opened himself to contamination; being declared unclean.

But didn’t he also
need to make love a real;
palpable and physical connection?

Could he feel
through warm fingertips
the stories carried by the skin?

Did he caress the isolation of illness?
Would he feel the indignities of infirmity?
Could he share the powerlessness of poverty?

The house of God is not a safe place. It is a cross where time and eternity meet, and where we are – or should be – challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently. Madeleine L’Engle

Suffering cries out to be shared.
There is no healing
without the risk of holding and being held.

Surely you have felt
the pulsing warmth
of another hand in yours?

Such fragile, mysterious gifts are we;
messengers of a Holy One embodied;
to feel through us the burn of love.

Every human palm,
saturated with sensate receptors,
can stretch out to hold, to feel and reach in to know and heal.

Consider your own hands
that have borne suffering
and been stung by violence.

Hands that have inflicted pain
and been calloused
by rejection or disdain.

These hands have brought consolation
and have known
the touch of tenderness.

Strong and gentle,
anointed to care and caress,
and bring the healing Realm close at hand.

God of day and darkness,
bless these holy hands for the tasks of restoration:
the holding, healing, feeding, and forgiving work of the Gospel.

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring. Martin Luther King Jr.

Will you risk being touched by the suffering within the reach of your hands?

joe

Love Withstanding



Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

When he knew that all was now finished, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty’.
John 19:28

Seeker,
Have you ever been beside yourself, embraced by pain too big to hold?

In outward expression,
Universe appears as roiling chaos,
but at its core, it is swirling hunger and thirst for connection.

Unfolding into the void
with expansive energy,
reality radiates its longing for communion.

Such explosive outpouring
echoes an elemental ache;
the cosmic overflow of a sundered Heart.

This universal mirror,
visible to us only in darkness,
illustrates a paradox: in being broken-open we are brought together.

Mercy is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world.
A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just.
We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful (God) who is so patient.
Pope Francis

In complete contrast to control,
compassion is the release of love;
liberation that comes with loss and letting-go.

Thus, it becomes both a compass
and pathway into tenderheartedness—
misericordia that ripens consciousness from human into divine.

Behold then our Mysterious Maker,
who comes so close,
but does not condescend;

at-one with us,
electing to suffer, not because of us,
but beside us, inside us, and un-sided among us.

This love-so-wide
perforates every boundary,
leaving us open-mouthed—agape!

Screens of separation dissolve
before the solidarity of suffering-shared,
unleashing merciful lamentation that will not be stemmed.

God weeps at love withheld, at strength misused, at children’s innocence abused, and, till we change the way we love, God weeps.
God cries at hungry mouths, at running sores, at creatures dying without a cause, and, till we change the way we care, God cries.
God waits for stones to melt, for peace to seed, for hearts to hold each other’s need, and, till we understand the Christ, God waits.

Shirley Erena Murray

Nothing is below this God-most-low.
so deeply in love with all Creation
that every bit is destined not for desolation.

Embodiment of aching love,
Christ showed the way to deeper care,
through the cruciform door of suffering we share.

We lose our ‘self’ in the well of another’s pain
to become part of rather than apart from
God’s children and everything else under the sun.

And only those who have required and received mercy,
reclaiming their original likeness,
can savor and freely share it.

To a Creator bent
on the restoration of the rest of life,
it all matters:

boy and girl and undefined lives;
rich and poor and in-between lives;
me and you and every other life;

African, Asian and European lives too;
all animals, every vegetable and mineral.
Even humble matter matters.

Such sacred solidarity, in love withstanding,
sharing the one pain,
offers us the promise of full-heartedness.

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
The Talmud

May we make a choice today
for love over condemnation, forgiveness over blame,
healing over hatred.

And with forbearance,
may you bear the burden of bearing witness,
standing with love at the foot of every cross and intersection.

joe