Commentary on the Gospel of
What does it mean to be a good listener? For me, it’s when I really, stop, open my heart and ears and pay attention to what is being said. Being mindful of someone speaking means I’m not glancing at a phone in my hand or papers on my desk or gazing beyond the speaker to the TV in the background. Listening simply means we stop everything and give our attention, like a gift, to the person in front of us.
That is what Lydia did in today’s first reading. When Paul and Barnabas arrived in Macedonia, the next stop in their journey to the Gentiles, they looked for a place of prayer along the riverbank. Lydia, a woman who was a dealer in purple cloth was presumably a wealthy and busy merchant. But on this day, she was in that place of prayer that Paul sought. While there, she, “listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention.” She could hear Paul with an unusual clarity, and it changed her life. Her immediate response was to open her home to them.
Being a follower of Jesus changes our lives and means we live in a new way. Being a Christian, and really following Jesus’ message, comes with challenges for the ways we live our lives. In John’s Gospel today, Jesus warns us of the trials that his followers will face but says he will send the Advocate, the Spirit, to be with us in those encounters.
Like Lydia, we can take the time to pray, to quiet ourselves and ask Jesus to open our hearts to what he wants for us. We can speak to him of the challenges we face and thank him for the joy in our lives. And, we can stop, in silence, and listen. What do our hearts hear Jesus saying to us? Where is the Spirit guiding us?
With the example of Lydia before us, we can ask what kind of hospitality we are called to as Christians? Who in my life needs the gift of my attention? Who do I need to forgive? A spouse, a child or other family member?
Outside of our own homes, and maybe even our own countries, there are others who need the focus of our Christian love. Pope Francis has spoken of “the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions.” Is there a local program to welcome refugees to our communites?
Today we can remember to open our hearts silently in prayer; then to those around us who need the gift of our attention. Jesus promises that the Advocate will be with us in all we do today, if only we can listen.