May 22, 2012

MISSION MATTERS: We Are Never Alone

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By Fr. Paul Stark, S.J.
Vice President for Mission and Ministry

This Sunday, we celebrate a God Who loves us so much that He will not leave us alone. In the celebration of Pentecost, we remember that none less than God entered our world and our lives to guide and help us in all parts of our lives, in all parts of our world. Scripture tells us that if we accept the Holy Spirit, we experience transformation, of ourselves and the world, if only we are open to that presence, if we allow the transformation.

This openness to God's presence is not complicated or beyond anyone's capacity. It normally means that we must be listening to the quiet voice of God we can find the world which surrounds us, the people we meet and even from within each of us. The Spirit speaks to us in what may be seen as "ordinary" things, which are media of extraordinary messages which are meant to encourage, challenge and guide. This Spirit is the voice of God who is always present, in all parts of our lives, and all we must do is listen.

St. Ignatius reminds us that God is in all things, in all part of creation. In his Spiritual Exercises, he tries to help each of us to learn how to be open to this presence of a loving and caring God. He tries to help us to learn how to listen with an openness to this quiet voice of God to draw our strength and direction.
This is not complex, but in this culture many of us find this difficult. Most of us have never learned to really listen. When we listen to others, or even ourselves, most of the time we are only half hearing. We are thinking on how we will counter what is being said so that we may be heard or win an argument. This type of listening allows us only to hear a portion of the message, because we are choosing the message we want to hear.

To really listen to God's Spirit, we must learn to be open to the whole message. We must learn to listen without being part of a debate where the counter-arguments, the difficulties and our own plans need to be defended. We must learn to be open to all possibilities. To allow the message of love and care to be really heard.

As we begin our summer, let us practice our own attempts to listen to the Spirit. Let us practice by trying to listen to the people around us, without trying to debate with them. Let us practice an open listening which is not concerned in being heard or winning an argument. Let us try to hear what the friends, family and co-workers are trying to say beyond their words.

Through this simple but difficult listening exercise, we will learn to listen without judgment to ourselves and to God. We will learn to better find the message of love and care from our God in every part of our lives. We will be able then know that God is in all things and people, and that we are never alone.

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