The word that stands out in today’s Gospel is “Hear this”! Jesus is teaching on a boat anchored near the shore while a crowd is gathered on the shore listening to him. Can you imagine how difficult it might be to hear someone speaking over the tide or the wind? Jesus begins his teaching by exclaiming: “Hear this”!
This brief exclamation is actually one word in the Greek text: “Hear this” (akouó). It’s where we get our word for acoustic. An acoustic guitar is literally a guitar that is hearable. But this word in the Gospel carries a much deeper and richer meaning. Jesus is not asking, Can you hear me? He’s saying, Listen up!
Listening has played an important role in our faith for thousands of years. One of the most powerful times we encounter the act of listening in Scripture happens when the Lord calls the prophet Samuel, who replies, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10). A direct connection is made between listening and servanthood. God’s servants are always ready to hear the voice of the Lord and listen to his direction in our lives. In this way, listening is tantamount to obedience.
That does not mean blind obedience. On the contrary, it is the loving obedience that all children should have for their parents, not simply hearing them, but listening to them. You parents understand the difference between hearing and listening. A child can hear a parent, but not listen to them. The same can be said of all of us in our relationship with God. We might hear God’s voice calling. But are we listening to him?
Jesus explains that we are more than mere servants when he repeats this same word: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard [akouó] from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). And he adds that “he who is of God hears [akouó] the words of God” (John 8:47), and “every one then who hears [akouó] these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock… and every one who hears [akouó] these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand” (Matthew 7:24, 26). As Jesus’s friends, we ought to listen to him.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus’s call, “Hear this,” is for all of us. He’s calling us to let his Word be sown on the good soil of our souls, so that he can be deeply rooted in our lives, so that Satan can never snatch away the Word, so that we can long-suffer “tribulation or persecution”, so that we can endure “worldly anxiety” and resist “the lure of riches and the craving for other things”, and so that we can avoid the near occasion of sin and all things that bear no fruit.
Our communion with God is not about what we could be saying, but about what we should be hearing, and who we should be listening to, as St. John Paul II explains, “Even more than speaking, prayer is listening” (St. John Paul II, Address, 6 February 1993). Hear God in your life today. And listen to him.