Don't Forget the Feather

There’s a Chinese Proverb that shares, “listen to all, pluck a feather from every passing goose”. 

It is so easy to get caught up in our own narrative, our sinful pride—like the Pharisee—makes this extremely easy. On the other hand, it is also easy to look at those around us and see only their faults and flaws (again our pride), remember God doesn’t pay us to be a critic of His handiwork. We never know when Christ is going to speak to us from the most flaw-ridden and unlikely of sources.

Imagine if the Pharisee—in this past Sunday's gospel (Luke 18:9-14)—had viewed his encounter with the Publican differently, for conversation sake, as an opportunity to learn and spiritually grow. Instead—as Scripture shares—he saw the Publican as a sinner with nothing fruitful to offer him. 

We look at this story and say of the Pharisee, “you fool”!But, what do we have to say for ourselves?

Do we seek to listen to those placed in our path? Do we take advantage of every chance encounter we have as an opportunity for our spiritual growth? Or do we knowing better--like the Pharisee—look past certain people as mere obstacles or

Dearest faithful, let us think for a moment of how Christ listens, how He sees, how many times He discovered in the crowd the one who needs Him or is ready to respond to His appeal. Most importantly, for this morning, Christ commits Himself entirely to the immediate, to those in His Presence, a trait our society sorely lacks.

Imagine praying in front of an icon of Jesus Christ, looking deeply into His umoving gaze.  He is completely open and available to us, His eyes never move from side to side, but remain fixed on the speaker.  Even if He had a cell-phone (which we can guess would have been continuously ringing) He would have given His attention only to the person speaking in front of Him.  Immediacy and attentive are terribly important skills when it comes to listening.  

There is nothing more immediate than the Cross and even there, He opens His ears to the good thief—does more than just listen—and pays the price for the thief’s and our sinful actions, in order to open the gates of Paradise.

God has given us ears to hear, incline them, listen and our souls shall live (Isaiah 55:3). There are spiritual lessons to be found in every experience—we may not like what they teach us about ourselves—but we will learn something. Perhaps, in listening our prayers may even be answered as in the following story.  We ultimately have to listen if we expect to hear God speak in gentleness. 

St. Ephraim the Syrian was about to take a long journey. He prayed to God, asking Him to send along a companion with whom he could carry on a conversation during the trip. He wanted to learn something, as well as have the time pass more quickly. As he started his journey he was joined by an elderly woman, “well”, he apparently thought to himself, “what can I possibly learn
from her”?

As they traveled, at one point, the saint stopped and the woman looked at him. “Why do you look at me,” he finally asked. And the lady answered: “I look at you because woman was originally made from man; but you ought not to look at me, rather at the good brown earth, because man was made from the dust at the hand of the Creator”. St. Ephraim then thanked God for this wonderful lesson in humility.

Brothers and sisters, let us ask our good God to give us the humility, patience and open hearts to listen so we too do not overlook the heavenly jewels in the most unsuspecting of circumstances.

Sinner, saint, rich, poor, man, woman, child, “everyone’s got a story, listen to them”.

And never forget to snag a feather.