The lyrics above come from 1930s Broadway musical. I thought of them while searching for a photo to accompany the homily shared here. I am not trying to be flip about Holy Scripture. This morning, Fr. Thomas Travers, CSsR gifted us with a touching and pointed reflection, the fruit of his meditation on today's Gospel, Matt. 20:17-28. He titled it "Listening." Listening is a mark of friendship; it generates the "blendship", and keeps it "hot". How are we listening to those we would call our friends, to those with whom we try to make community, to make family? And how are we listening to Jesus as he speaks to us each day?
Sr. Maria Celeste and Sr. Weena
Redemptoristines, Liguori, Missouri
by Father Thomas Travers, CSsR
Espous, New York
I think that a very interesting and instructive exercise is to try to, as they say, get 'inside the head' of Jesus. For instance, we can ask ourselves: what was he thinking, what was he feeling when he went through the experieces of today's gospel?
This gospel reminds me of a commercial on TV. I do not remember what it was for (maybe you remember it). The scene shows a guy, who looked like a teacher in school. He is seated at a table or desk and he is engrossed in something he is doing with his hands, perhaps playing a game or trying to figure something out. Then some little kindergarden kids bring in a rabbit and put it on his desk and say with tears in their eyes and voices, "There's something is wrong with Peter." The teacher just keeps on playing his game; does not even look at them and says off handedly, "Oh, that's OK. I still have the receipt."
He is completely oblivious of what is really going on. And then, somehow, he realizes what the kids are talking about and jumps out of his chair, raises his arms, grabs two balloons, touches them to the rabbit, says something and heals him. And the kids, all smiles, take the rabbit back in their arms again and go out to play.
I really think that Jesus can relate to those kids. He had a real problem. Not a sick rabbit but a life-changing event he had to face; a matter of life and death. And he told his disciples about it and they paid no attention. They kept right on with their useless chatter about who was going to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I mean, just look at the gospel. Jesus is really serious. The gospel says that he takes the twelve disciples aside by themselves. (He did that when he was serious.) He tells them that he is going up to Jerusalem to be handed over to the leaders of their people, to be condemned to death and passed off to the Gentiles, then mocked scourged and crucified. Now that is serious stuff. He is telling them of what is going to be the saddest experience in his life. And all they are thinking of is who is going to sit at his right and left hand when he gets to the kingdom. And then the other disciples, realizing what is going on, get all bent out of shape, not because of Jesus' predicament but becasue they might lose out on the best seats, the highest rewards, in the kingdom.
You can almost hear Jesus saying, "Hey, aren't you listening to me? I just told you I am going to die a cruel death and all you are worried about is your seats at the banquet. What did I tell you about seats at banquets?" But the disciples were not listening!!! How it must have tore at the heart of Jesus. All he wanted was a little support and consolation. And he got none.
A short while ago something like that happened at our dinner table. Someone had something really important to say. He said it, but no one listened. Someone else came right in and drowned him out, oblivious to what was going on.
I think that the lesson we can learn today, the lesson that Jesus wants us to learn because he felt the effects of those who did not learn it, the lesson is to listen; to listen to the other; not to be so taken up with our own world, our own life, our own games, our own rewards that we do not hear the other in their pain and sorrow.
If our whole life is supposed to be other-oriented, loving our neighbor as ourselves, the only way we are going to be able to do so is to notice, to see, and to hear, the other especially in their hour of sorrow. LORD, GIVE US A LISTENING HEART. AMEN.