8th S. 2022: A Listening Church

Today’s homily is for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 27, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of this homily can be viewed by clicking here soon, and can be heard by clicking here soon.

One of the complaints I often hear from teachers in our school district is that the superintendent and the assistant superintendents, and sometimes even site admin are out of touch with the day-to-day experience of the teachers in the classroom. Policies and programs, some say, come rolling downhill with the intent to support those in the trenches, but in the end, do little more than crush those upon whose shoulders they fall. This reality, of course, does not only exist in school systems, but in every large institution. So often the leaders are just…well…out of touch, and this may be the case at your work too.

The complaints I often hear from parishioners about the Church are similar. The pope, bishops, and even priests can be so far removed from the daily lives of those they serve, they can become blind to the struggles and sorrows of the very people they are called to lead. This distant style of leadership is harshly condemned by Jesus in today’s Gospel. 

Jesus does not pull any punches when he addresses the hypocrisy of his day. “Can a blind person guide a blind person?” Jesus asks, “Will not both fall into a pit?” It is not only hard, but foolish, to put your trust in a leader who can’t see where he is going! I think Stevie Wonder is a great musician, but I wouldn’t ask him to help me hit a pinata! Especially if I was blindfolded too! We wouldn’t get any candy at all!

In ‘Evangelli Gaudium’ Pope Francis says, “An evangelizing community gets involved in people’s daily lives; it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers,” the Pope says, “thus take on the ‘smell of the sheep’ and the sheep are willing to hear their voice.” (EG 24) That’s good leadership. A good shepherd lives among the sheep. The pope is calling his leadership to take off the blindfold, remove the plank from their eye, and sit with the people they are called to serve. He wants the clergy to hear our voice, roll up their sleeves, and journey with us. That’s the theme for his year’s Synod, “Walking Together As One.” That’s good leadership.

Our superintendent does not want to be a blind guide, nor does she want her administrators blind. She holds what she calls “Student Senate,” where she gathers eight to ten students to talk with her and the site principal about what’s really going on at school. She does the same sort of listening for staff. It’s quite amazing. From bathrooms to lunchrooms to classrooms we learn so much about what is going on in our school and in the lives of our students by just asking some questions and listening to what staff and students have to say. Good leaders listen. 

We have a great leader in Pope Francis and in our Bishop too. Our Pope’s answer to healing blindness; to removing the wooden beam from our eye, is called a “synod.” Our bishop, in solidarity with the pope, is asking us to speak up! He wants to hear our voice–not eight or ten, but everyone.

I hope you will be a part of this Synod this year. We are in the information gathering phase. We are listening. Please take the time to go to the Diocese’s website and take the survey. I took it this morning. Another way to participate is by attending a “Listening Session.” Keep an eye on the bulletin and listen for the announcements to find out when. Our bishop is asking us to help him remove the blindfold from his eyes. He’s asking us to help remove the splinter from the eyes of Diocesan and parish leadership. This is an amazing opportunity for our Church.Everyone can participate—Catholics, non-Catholics, fallen-away Catholics. If you’ve got family or friends who have left the church, or are unhappy with it, have them take the survey! Let’s get better. That’s why I ask for parishioner feedback on my homilies—we don’t get better by only hearing what’s good. Our church is amazing, but it can be better. I’m appreciative and proud of a Church that listens. Listening is the first step to seeing more clearly.

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