Thursday, 4 October 2012

Harvest

A Homily for Holy Communion on Monday, 24th of September, 2012, 9 a.m. for the Sisters of the Love of God Fairacres Priory, Oxford Luke 8:16-18 “So Take Care How You Hear” + May I speak in the name of the Divine Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Amen. These words leapt out at me from today’s gospel reading – I had never noticed them before. In fact, and in view of what I’ve thought of to say, it’s ironic, I thought “oh, it must just be the Missal, I’ll check it in a proper Bible”. But no, the translation was the same “take care how you hear”. It’s interesting that it’s not “take care what you listen to”. There are warnings in the New Testament about false prophecies for twitching ears, and rumours of wars, but that’s not what Jesus says here – “take care how you hear”. I wonder if it’s about paying attention? My late father was a man of agile mind, much experience, and many opinions, and an argument with him was always a bracing intellectual journey, but at times he would also say with an acute self-awareness, “I’ve made my mind up, don’t confuse me with the facts”. Examples of this sort of selective hearing abound in politics, my other love, but we find them in religion too. There was an astonishing, and thought-provoking time, it just occurred to me in the vestry, when I was working at S. Giles-in-the-Fields Church in central London. It was just a little weekday evensong, and we had – O! the holy grail! – not only newcomers there, but young newcomers! And by miserable chance it was the evening of the month when we had to say Psalm 137, which, you may recall ends badly: “O daughter of Babylon, wasted with misery: yea, happy shall be be that rewardeth thee, as thou hast served us. Blessed shall he be that taketh thy children: and throweth them against the stones”. And just as we were starting out (admittedly tentative) “glory be”, one of our young visitors stood up and shouted “this isn’t the Bible, this isn’t the word of the Lord!” I remonstrated, gently, that it might well not be the word of the Lord, but it was certainly in the Bible and had been there for a very long time. But she was not to be placated, and marched, with her friend, down the aisle of the church, singing improving hymns at us. Of course, she was right, and her rightness made us old lags think again about those words we’d used so glibly. We had a lesson “take care how you hear”, and maybe we all learned something that evening, in our different ways. It is all too easy not to see what the light illuminates, not to hear what the words actually say, and instead see and hear what we have already decided must be there. So, these few words are a challenge, but a permissive one. Jesus says “by all means hear – but take care how you do so”. Amen. Richard Haggis Littlemore, Oxford September 2012

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