By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
“”… the first duty of the Christian is to listen to the Word of God, to listen to Jesus, because he speaks to us and he saves us by his word. And by this word he makes our faith even stronger and more robust. Listen to Jesus!”
Reading today’s gospel for the second Sunday of Lent, Mark 9:2–10, on the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, I reflected on God’s divine revelation of His Son, Jesus, to Peter, James, and John when He said: “This is my beloved Son, the Beloved, listen to him.”
Are we listening to what our Lord is telling us? It’s only if we have an encounter with Christ that we will open our hearts to really listen to what He is saying to us.
Remember Pope Francis’ plea to us at the beginning of his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel): “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting Him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord'” (Evangelii Gaudium 3).
Note that we are called to encounter Christ daily. In a world in which “bad house” is forever calling us and seeking to derail us from our journey as disciples of Christ, daily encounter and daily examen of conscience will ensure that we remain rooted in and grow in our faith, so that we will truly “listen to Him”.
It’s also important to remember that going to Mass on a Sunday or following the Mass virtually on TV will not necessarily make one a good person.
My friend Najette posted an article by Czarina Ong about one of Pope Francis’ 2015 homilies, in which he warned people against the dangers of “subtle sin” and said that not all churchgoers are good people. He was focusing on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
“He explained that the rich man was not really evil, but ‘the eyes of his soul were certainly tinted so as not to see. Maybe he was a religious man, in his own way. Maybe he prayed and a couple times a year he surely went up to the temple to offer sacrifices and he gave big donations to the priests, who in their clerical cowardice would thank him and give him a seat of honour.’
“But it did not matter what ‘good deeds’ he made in honour of the church. The rich man still failed to recognise the plight of the poor man who was living so close to his home. Pope Francis then applied the parable to modern times, warning that a lot of people are religious, but their hearts are overshadowed by worldliness, and so they fail to witness the suffering of the people around them. ‘With a worldly heart you can go to church, you can pray, you can do many things,’ Pope Francis said. ‘But if your heart is worldly you cannot understand the needs and hardships of others.’”
He called this blindness not only a ‘subtle sin,’ but ‘a sinful state of the soul. “There is a curse on the person who trusts in the world and a blessing on the one who trusts in the Lord. The rich man’s soul is a desert and an inhabitable wasteland,” he said, adding that “worldly people ‘are alone with their selfishness.'”
And in response to Najette’s post, someone commented: “Imagine going to Church and not being concerned about the poor!”
At the end of January, Vittorio Scelzo, Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, emphasised that “the poor, the Bible and the elderly” are “three priorities” of Pope Francis’ pontificate, priorities that are destined “to mark the future of the Church.”
If we are to listen to Christ, if we are to share the Good News, we must have a deep knowledge of the Word. This year on January 24, Sunday of the Word of God, the Holy Father said: “Christians must encounter the Bible, not just recite verses like parrots.”
He reminded the faithful “to keep the Sacred Scriptures close at all times and to read them frequently.” He recalled a statement by St Jerome: “Whoever ignores the Scriptures ignores Christ.”
The scriptures will help us to LISTEN to Him.
Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence.
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, para 259
CCSJ Social Justice