Listening First
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
6th Sunday of Easter
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

Jesus preached to an audience that was totally clear about what it hoped to hear. The Jewish people were looking for their Messiah, a person who would lift the weight of Roman occupation from their shoulders and lead them to the greatness that they believed was their destiny. Jesus’ promise of the immanent triumph of God’s will for the world wasn’t abstract or other-worldly for them. Its hope resonated clearly and powerfully with their hearts.

Jesus’ problem, as far as the majority of his audience was concerned, wasn’t his message; it was his credibility as a messenger and the significant demands that the new world he promised placed on those who would be its citizens. As the number of his followers grew, powerful Judean leaders also began to fear him as a threat to the tenuous political balance between them, their people and their Roman occupiers.
We offer Jesus and his message in a radically different situation than the one he addressed. Our world possesses no unified idea of God. Few in the Western world expect a divinity to enter history bringing peace, justice and greatness to their future.

The world most of us inhabit believes that it originates its own fate. Those of us who live well look for no great overhaul of life. Those suffering chronic deprivation struggle to better themselves. They look only for a fair shake and, possibly, a temporary helping hand. This isn’t the world that Jesus occupied. How do we present his promise now?

How can we justify claiming a unique and superior revelation if we find ourselves no more loving, just and peaceful than people who claim other wisdoms? How can we claim a unique understanding of The Creator’s actions and purpose if people see that we know no more about our world, let alone our universe, than anyone else? How can we claim to possess the keys to a joyous heart if our world finds us lacking an appreciation of their lives and dreams?

We need to become a Church that listens more than we speak.