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The presence of grace

Recently, I was on the phone with one of my teenage nieces: there was a story about something that had happened at school and at one point she said: ‘are you listening to me?’ I certainly was after she said that! Because (truthfully) while she was on the phone, I had also been unloading the dishwasher (with the TV in the background) and keeping an eye on what was happening on the stove-top.
 
Her prompt reminded me of how mum listened on the phone. I think it was partly because she was from the time of the fixed phone line which meant that when the phone rang everything else was put on hold. There was a phone table, a note-pad for messages and a chair. The only thing she was focused on for that time was listening, talking and being present to the person who had called her. In later years she had a mobile phone and when it rang she maintained this gift of stopping everything and being present to her caller. But her phone was never answered if she was with someone else – no phubbing (a term that has been coined to describe those times when a mobile phone is answered when in the presence of another) for her!
A few days later I was walking through the Bourke Street mall and a violinist was playing the hauntingly beautiful Schindlers List theme composed by John Williamson. For the second time in a matter of days I was stopped short. Something about the music touched me and I was totally present to the strains of the violin and the bustle of the mall melted away.
 
I resonate with Mark’s disciples – I can be a slow learner. There was another forced stop in store for me. A friend was unwell and I had a day sitting in a hospital emergency department. Just sitting, just being, just being present. And there was nothing I could do but sit, be there and listen. Listen to my friend, listen to the doctors, listen to the world of anxiety that was unfolding as a backdrop to my own anxious experience. I was being called out of myself to pay more attention.
 
These moments helped me realise how easy it is to busy ourselves to the extent that we can miss important moments of grace. Moments when, if we are not paying attention, we can be almost cavalier and careless about the experience that life is offering us. And I realised how easy it is to slip away from thinking about God and about how God is revealed to us in our daily life. How easy it is to miss the daily invitation of grace and blessing that is being offered to us.
 
In the Catholic tradition the great season of Easter has just concluded. For practicing Catholics, it has been a rich time of ritual and remembrance. This is one of the wonderful things about ritual: word, colour and action come together to re-connect the faithful with the ancestral stories which offer powerful reminders of how God speaks through the ages.
 
And now it is Ordinary Time. A time when, for those with the imagination to see and the ears to hear, God continues to be revealed in the events of daily life. The faithful imagination has this capacity, I suspect. A capacity to be inspired by the Word of God that is daily offered to us and to see how it forms our work in the world. To not just read the words of Scripture but to hear them. To listen. To be formed by them and to act.
 
In April 2013 Pope Francis expressed it this way: "Are we capable of bringing the word of God into the environment in which we live? Do we know how to speak of Christ, of what he represents for us, in our families, among the people who form part of our daily lives? Faith is born from listening, and is strengthened by proclamation."
 
Or, in the words of Ernest Hemingway: ‘When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen’.
 
Perhaps as we commence this period of Ordinary Time we are being called to listen with attention. A listening that requires us to listen to our hearts, to reflect upon the events of the world, to be attentive to the people around us so that we may hear and respond to God’s call. The God of our ancestors who continues to be revealed to us in the events of our everyday lives.
 
May the Lord of Ordinary Time enable us to listen to the Spirit in order that we may renew the face of our earth.
 
 
 

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