By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, April 30, 2012

To Whom (or What) are You Listening?

If you read this blog, the chances are good that you are connected to a wide variety of social network communication modes: emails, texts, tweets, Facebook notifications, and a whole host of others that I haven't heard of. Our communications world these days is an incessant plethora of voices, news alerts, ideas and, more often than not, insubstantial chatter. To whom, though, do we really listen? We hear a lot, but listening is something entirely different. Listening means pausing to pay attention, to weigh what is said, and then to make a decision as to what determinative influence it will exercise upon us. So understood, listening is difficult. Carving out time for it is a challenge to begin with. Pushing away the myriad distractions in order to concentrate is another hurdle.

Yet listening is essential to the Christian life. At the Baptism of Jesus, and again at his Transfiguration, the voice of the Father spoke from the descending cloud with the instruction: "Listen to him!" And yesterday, in the Gospel, we heard Jesus, having identified himself as the Good Shepherd, say that his sheep are those who "listen to my voice." Hence the question: to whom are we listening? Only the voice of Jesus points out the way that leads to life. That is because he is the Way. When we hear the many messages that bombard us, we need carefully to discern the good from the bad by asking if their influence leads us closer to fidelity to the Shepherd or further away.

I worry about our young people. They are more subject than any other group to the endless chatter of social networking, Internet, music videos and so on. When I once asked a high school class what most influences them and their peers, they began to speak of pop stars, TV celebrities, and so on - people I did not know. So I asked if such influence would lead them away from, or toward, Jesus. Without hesitation they replied: "Away!" My subsequent question was: "Then why are you paying any attention to them?" We need to help them listen to the one voice that is absolutely trustworthy: that of the Lord.

We can readily understand why the fourth Sunday of Easter, with its Good Shepherd Gospel, is the annual occasion for the Church's World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls; we listen and follow. On Vocations Sunday we focus in a particular way upon the beauty of priesthood and religious life. The one "vocations strategy" proposed by Jesus was to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest. So please join with me in regular prayer that the many who are called by the Lord to priesthood and religious life will be enabled truly to hear his voice calling to them in the midst of much noise; that, hearing, they will truly listen; and listening, they will trust and follow.