Thursday the 10th Week in Ordinary Time
The love of God and neighbor begins with listening. Our love for God begins with listening to his Word, as Elijah bent his ear to the ground and heard the sound of rain, and then could pray with the psalmist, “You care for the earth, give it water.” Our love for our neighbor begins in the same way. “Go first and be reconciled with your brother”, says Jesus. To do that, we first have to listen to what our brother has to say.
Jesus speaks from his own knowledge of the way God loves us. God doesn’t limit himself to just speaking to us; he also listens to us. So if we learn to listen to our brother, we’re only doing for him what God has done for us. And listening can be more reconciling than speaking. If we can’t listen to our brother, we may end up by not being able to listen to God either, and our prayer to God ends up with us doing all the talking.
If that’s where you are in your prayer life, says Jesus, “leave your gift there at the altar, go first, and be reconciled with your brother”. Get your ear to the ground and learn to listen to your brother. If you think your time is too precious to waste on listening to others, then you’ll wind up not having time either for God or for your neighbor; you’ll only have time for yourself and your own concerns. Your attitude to your neighbor is a reflection of your relationship with God, and that’s what God sees when you come before the altar.
Learn to listen to your neighbor while you are still on the way to the Last Judgment with him. Then come and pray in the words of a 20th-century poet (Frank von Christierson):
Eternal Spirit of the living Christ, / I know not how to ask or what to say;
I only know my need, as deep as life, / And only You can teach me how to pray.
Come, pray in me the prayer I need this day; / Help me to see Your purpose and Your will – Where I have failed, what I have done amiss; / Held in forgiving love, let me be still.
Come with the strength I lack, bring vision clear / Of human need; O give me eyes to see Fulfillment of my life in love outpoured, / My life in You, O Christ; Your love in me.