We Love When We Listen
Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that 'he is one, and besides him there is no other'; and 'to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,' and 'to love one's neighbor as oneself,'—Nthis is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mark 12:32-33, NRSV).
The twofold struggle to love God above all else and to love our neighbors as ourselves is a constant one. But as we read in Mark, it “is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Love is a complex phenomenon—so complex that the Greeks felt the need to employ four different words to describe it. But sometimes loving our neighbor comes down to something as simple as listening.
On a day long ago when personal computers were just starting to show up in schools and offices, I got a call from an elementary school principal who wanted to know if her new computer was equipped for communications. I asked her to look around the outside of the computer for a phone jack. She was reluctant to try this, so I took a different tack. "Where did you buy it?" I asked. "A family in our parish gave it to us," she replied. I asked, "Do they have a child in your school?" She replied, "Yes, he's in the first grade. His parents bought him a new one and donated his old one to us."
"Great," I exclaimed. "Go ask him." There was nothing but silence on the line. "Are you there?" I asked. "Yes," she replied. "Why not ask him?" I persisted. "He's a student," she said, clearly indicating that was a line she could never cross over.
"Well, maybe you can ask his parents," I suggested sheepishly. I didn't have the nerve to tell her that my status as an expert came mostly from listening to my son who was in junior high.
Jesus-like leaders show their love for followers by respecting them, asking them questions, listening to them and learning from them. And chief among the lessons they learn is that the graces from this approach abound in this world as much as the next.
Written by Owen Phelps