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The Art of Listening

So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them and healed their sick
Isaiah 55:1-3; Psalm 145:8-9,15-18; Romans 8:35,37-39; Matthew 14:13-21

Sermon Week Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Scripture Summary Matthew 14:14

"Contact Community Helplines" is an organization founded on the belief that ordinary people can be trained to care and to heal. It has built a vast network of telephone workers in cities all over the world. Twenty-four hours a day the telephones are staffed by trained volunteers who receive calls from people reaching out for help, reaching out for another human being who will really listen to them, reaching out for another human being who will really identify with their problem -- reaching out for another human being who will relate to them on the level of genuine concern.

As Christians, we recognize the model for this ministry is Jesus Christ. Therefore, the volunteer training (which is extensive) emphasizes that this ministry is person-centered; that it is the relationship that counts. It is within this context that preaching and lecturing and passing judgment are forbidden. The volunteers are trained to overcome the temptation to "preach to" by developing the willingness to "listen to," thus giving the hurting person all the space they need to talk. And this, we might say is the true "Art of Listening."

In today's Lesson, Jesus, saddened by the news of John the Baptist's execution, goes "in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But the people heard of this and, leaving the towns went after him on foot" (Mt. 14:13). They feel drawn to Jesus. And when they see their Prophet moving away in the boat, they surge toward the spot where He will land. When Jesus arrives at the shore, there they are, waiting for Him. And Jesus "saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them and healed their sick" (Mt. 14:14).

Time passes. The crowds are still there with Jesus. They have no desire to leave Him, even though it is getting late, and it is past mealtime. Why worry? Surely Jesus will provide for them! The Apostles tell Jesus to dismiss the people so that they can find food for themselves somewhere. But Jesus has a better idea. "There is no need for them [...]

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