Sermons

September 19: Listening to Your Voice (25 B)

“Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and put his arms around it, and he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me.’” Mark 9: 30-37.

Today we hear that Jesus is perplexed over his disciple’s lack of understanding. So, he sits them down and says: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

This gospel passage is about servant leadership. We know that true leaders know how to inform, value each person’s contribution and enable efforts among their followers. Moreover, genuinely gifted leaders listen, and Jesus emphasizes the importance of welcoming and even receiving the one-child whose voice we must hear.

Listening to your voice, that’s the focus of my sermon today. What a privilege it is to serve you in this capacity, and it’s the very core of our educational mission here at Santa Catalina — namely, listening to your needs, your hurts, and genuine concerns. That’s what makes us Santa Catalina!

Jesus was asking his disciples to receive a child, so too we have to create ways to welcome, listen and identify with the younger generation, your generation.

As you are coming into young adulthood in 2021, I can never be your age. However, drawing on my memory and imagination, maybe this technique helps.

When I’m driving in my car, especially on long distances, and most recently going from Monterey to Los Angeles, I rely on Sirius XM to get me through the ordeals of traffic and long-haul driving.

So, I play a game; namely, I tune into the channels on the top of the Sirius XM list. These music channels divide pop music into decades — the 50’s on 5, the 60’s on 6, the 70’s on 7, and thru to the present.

Typically, I stay with one decade at a time, attempting to identify the song that is played, whether I recall the singer or the group, and later carefully glancing at the radio screen to reveal this information.

Mostly, I look for the precise year. At that point, my mental quiz begins. I try to pour myself into that younger person that I was long ago. Let me give you a recent example.

When the popular singing group, The Platters, sang their big hit song “Only You” in 1955, who was I at the time? Who were my friends? Who was my fifth-grade teacher? What were my significant concerns? How well did I perform the “O Holy Night” solo at the parish Christmas concert? In the year 1955, the Salk polio vaccine became available. What was my reaction to taking the inoculation?

With each decade, these songs on XM radio help fill in memories and impressions of the time. This technique gives me an appreciation for growth and conflicts. And if I listen carefully to my fears and misgivings about myself, I might in some way understand and listen more carefully to your concerns now.

No, I cannot be your age, your gender, or race. Each of us is born with certain givens. But it’s the similar process of growing up and experiencing life that all adults must welcome in you.

After all, Jesus is saying, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me.” The Lord welcomes you, receives you, and most of all listen to you.”

Recently, I came across a quote from a writer and religious educator, Margaret Felice, who asks, “Where do you see God on your life’s journey? What part of your life feels dark and shut out from the Lord? Do you struggle to see God’s grace at work? Invite God to give you the vision that sees grace in all things.” 

How do I see it? For the past few weeks, I’ve been attempting to figure out how kids or young people might see religion or religious values and God. How do we learn to listen to the inner voice in all of us?

For me, as a priest, this is a practical concern. And yes, I rely on certain hymns that I sang as a choir boy years ago. These moments of my youth reveal the very first appearance of God in my life and an ability to see God’s grace at work on this present journey of ours.

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.

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