The man had never walked. A cripple from birth, he was unable to put his two feet under him. But that didn’t stop him from going out and joining the crowd that had gathered to hear what the newly arrived preachers had to say. They were the talk of the town, Lystra. He had heard how boldly they spoke of a man called Jesus, how fearlessly they had done wonders in his name. He simply had to go and hear them himself.
So there, in the middle of the crowd he listened. With an open heart he heard what Paul had to say. And Paul, who looked intently at him, “saw that he had the faith to be healed.” He saw that his words, telling of Jesus, the Son of God, had fallen deep into the heart of this man. “Stand up straight on your feet,” he shouted. And at once this nameless man “jumped up and began to walk about” (Acts, Chapter 13).
To listen deeply is to open our heart to another. It is to be ready to receive, not just the words but the person into our lives. As one writer puts it, “Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within another person” (R N Remen). A good listener is non-judgemental, humble, patient. This is rare in the clamorous culture of our time. How willing are we to let the other’s story unfold? Our tendency is to talk, to cut in with advice, to assure the person before us that, yes, we understand, we know what they mean and we are ready with our answer. But people, for the most part, do not want our advice or our counsel. They are sceptical of our ‘understanding.’
Our listening attentively, receptively and without hurry is the healing people look for. To be heard, to have their story welcomed, to know they are not alone is the blessing they need. The Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh says, “It is important to learn how to listen with compassion. Listening with compassion means listening with the will to relieve others of their suffering, without judging or seeking to argue.”
If we would listen well, listen deeply with a welcoming heart, we must curb our ego. A big ego will prevent us from receiving the other. Similarly, a heart and mind full of noise and chatter will block our ears, leaving little or no space for the one who needs to be heard. Preoccupied with our own or trivial, or very real, concerns, we can easily shut others out. And this is a huge loss, not only to others but to ourselves.
The prophet Isaiah says: “In quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (30:15). It is not easy to be quiet in our busy day, but when we trust the Lord to help us we will find a time and a space to listen to his word each day. Let us open our heart to what God is saying to us today in our unfolding story. Then we will be prepared to really listen and receive the stories of those we meet. And it may well be that, like that crippled man in Lystra, that they too will be empowered to “jump up and walk about.”
Sr Redempta Twomey