As I listened to the reading from the Book of Wisdom (6:12-16) at Mass on Sunday night, it caused me to reflect on the many experiences of my previous week, and the week we are now in.

I participated in several diocesan synod meetings during the week, and this week we are celebrating NAIDOC week and also Remembrance Day. I am also conscious of the election week in America and its impact on our global home. Here is the reading for us to reflect upon:

Wisdom is bright, and does not grow dim.
By those who love her she is readily seen,
and found by those who look for her.
Quick to anticipate those who desire her, she makes herself known to them.
Watch for her early and you will have no trouble;
you will find her sitting at your gates.
Even to think about her is understanding fully grown;
be on the alert for her and anxiety will quickly leave you.
She herself walks about looking for those who are worthy of her
and graciously shows herself to them as they go,
in every thought of theirs coming to meet them.

Needless to say, I love the readings from the Book of Wisdom, and I believe it was a privilege to be present as Fr Nicholas King SJ, from Oxford, broke open some of the New Testament during the week, via Zoom. His topic was about Bringing the Gospel to Life, and he did that by his words, but mostly by his energy and his engaging passion for the life-giving words of our scriptures. He showed us the gift of seeking wisdom in our scriptures in our present day. I believe this is what we are attempting to do in both our plenary council and synodal processes. We are looking for the ‘bridegroom’ and we wish to be alert and ready.

It appears to me that we are invited to do this in the events of our ordinary lives, lived out in community. This week across Australia, NAIDOC Week celebrations will be held, replacing those planned for July, and which were postponed due to COVID. NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’ and now the name commemorates a week of activities in which we celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The theme for this year’s NAIDOC Week is Always Was Always Will Be

Always Was, Always Will Be recognises that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years. This country was criss-crossed by generations of brilliant Nations. Australia has the world’s oldest oral stories. The First Peoples engraved the world’s first maps, made the earliest paintings of ceremony and invented unique technologies. Structures predating well-known sites such as the Egyptian Pyramids and Stonehenge form part of our landscape and demonstrate the cultural and spiritual connection to this country. NAIDOC 2020 invites all Australians to embrace the true history of this country – a history which dates back thousands of generations and we now acknowledge there has always been a strong and harmonious connection to land.

During the past week I also came across the following reflection in the South Australian Council of Churches e-news. It bore the title Pin Drop. I believe it is able to reflect our work as church, in words that have been carefully crafted by Emma Stephenson:

Part of the work of the church is to teach us to listen in a world that only wants to speak. We learn to listen, not just for information; but also for discernment, sifting through the questions of life. We learn to listen, not to react quickly to every dilemma, but to respond thoughtfully and prayerfully. We learn to listen not only to speak, but so we can speak truthfully, kindly, and compassionately.

Listening is found at the heart of the church. When we gather for worship, we are merely pausing long enough to listen. When we sing, it is for our ears. When we read scripture, we are trying to hear what we have not heard before, or what we need to hear again. When we pray, we not only speak, but we also listen. In the place where I worship each week, we also pause for a time of silence because in the silence the only sound we hear is the presence of God.

God is whispering to us, reminding us that we belong to God and to one another. In order to hear it though, we must listen. Too often, we are busy speaking at each other, past one another, over each other, or about each other. We are listening only because we are trying to think of what to say next.

We are learning to distinguish God's voice amongst the others, which is rather difficult because God is speaking through us, for us, and to us. It is not the type of listening we use when we flip through the television channels, scroll through the songs on our phones, or play our favourite podcast, as we drive down the road. It is more like walking outside at dusk and hearing the chirping of the crickets all around us. It is hearing something that makes us silent. It is when we can hear a pin drop, like when the choir finishes singing and the beauty of the song fills the room, and we do not have words to describe it. When we hear something sacred, all we can do is be quiet.

We are learning to listen in the church so we can better listen for those same things throughout the world, recognizing God's voice wherever kindness is spoken, wherever justice is needed, wherever humility is voiced, wherever mercy is given, or wherever community is formed.

God continues to speak through us, for us, and to us in various ways. When we hear it, we become quiet, where we can hear a pin drop, but if we incline our ears to hear the voices of mercy and the need for justice, we will know how to speak up as well.

And while doing some further reading about listening I came across a text by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together.

The first service that one owes to others in the community involves listening to them. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them. God’s love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives us God’s Word but also lends us God’s ear. We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them.

These two passages on listening provide us with what we are being asked to do in both the Plenary Council and Diocesan Synod processes. We are being invited to stop, listen, pray, dialogue with others and with God, in order to hear deeply what is being said and what we are being invited into. We do all of this before taking action.

Wednesday, 11 November, marks another day of listening and remembering. While Armistice Day (now known as Remembrance Day) commemorated the end of World War I, we also remember that this year marks 75 years since the end of World War II. The one-minute silence at 11am on this day serves as a reminder to acknowledge the sacrifices of our service men and woman who have enabled us to live in peace in this Great South Land of the Holy Spirit.

Have a blessed week while listening to each other and God’s voice.


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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.