Friday, December 18, 2009

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Reflection for our Reconciliation Service

Readings: John 1:1-13

The opening word of the Rule of Benedict is that famous word, Ausculta - Listen or Hear intently. To benefit from all that is written afterwards in the Rule the aspiring monk must be in a frame of mind that is attentive and open. The same might be said of the words of the scripture passage we have just heard: Listen, "In the beginning was the Word." Unless we are listening carefully, we will never hear the Word.

Social scientists have often observed that it is getting harder and harder for people to listen intently in our society. Simply because most people live in contexts with multiple sources of extraneous noise, either willfully chosen (headsets and ear phones) or socially produced (interstate highways and airports). We do live in a society where people are surrounded with almost constant noise. That makes it extremely difficult to hear any word in depth—much less the revealed word of God. And yet that’s the challenge of this Christmas season: to hear the meaning of the Word-made-flesh for our lives.

This reconciliation service should be a step in preparing ourselves to hear that Word-made-flesh. It’s a step towards reducing the noise in our lives. Sometimes that noise can be exterior (the paging call and loud conversations in the monastery hallways) and sometimes it may be interior—concerns, distractions, passions that can dominate our awareness to the point where we can think of nothing else and are not ready to hear the Word-made-flesh.

One area that often creates internal noise in us is covetousness. Covetousness may be inbred in our being born as self-centered children. A couple of evenings ago I was talking on the phone with my niece in Knoxville, TN. She has two boys, ages two and four. As we were conversing, in the background I could hear a series of high-pitched shrieks. I asked what was going on. She answered that the two boys were engaged in sibling rivalry. Evan, the two-year old, would stand in the middle of a veritable forest of toys and be interested in absolutely nothing....until his older brother picked up a toy. Then Evan had to have that toy; he would run to it, grab it and would shriek until he got it. Even after Colin, the four-year old, gave it to him, Evan’s interest in the toy lasted only until Colin picked up another toy. Then Evan would throw away the first, grab the second and the shrieking process would begin all over. We would like to think that we have overcome such infantile covetousness. But think again. How often it is that we have no interest in some things....until someone else in the community receives that item as a special gift or permission. Then our desires are piqued. Maybe our expression is flowered over with all sorts of adult rationalizing, but deep down it’s still the same old covetousness. And it creates tremendous noise in our inner lives.

This reconciliation service should be a very intense listening to the word of our own lives, to discern where we have need of repentance and reconciliation with God so we can truly listen, free of inner noise, to the Word-made-flesh. It’s time to erase some of the internal noise in our lives.

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