Listening

Notice the look on the Pope's face. He's intent. He faces the men on his left. He looks comfortably attentive. The only one who looks nervous is the fellow sitting across from him who appears to be a bodyguard probably wondering why the pope decided to eat in the employees' cafeteria. The Pope asked the men about their work and, of course, they talked about soccer.

It's a sad commentary about us when we think that the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics eating with workers is big news. Why should it shake things up when a pope eats with workers? After all, Jesus ate with prostitutes, tax collectors, and others lumped together as "sinners." How else does a leader find out what's really going on? If a leader doesn't know what's going on, how can she or he serve real needs? It won't happen.

When the average CEO of an American company makes 475 times as much as the average worker in her or his company, it is hard to imagine that average CEO sitting at a lunch table with the average worker. It's even harder imagining them listening attentively.

In his letter, Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis says: "We need to practice the art of listening, which is more than simply hearing. Listening, in communication, is an openness of heart which makes possible that closeness without which genuine spiritual encounter cannot occur. Listening helps us to find the right gesture and word which shows that we are more than simply bystanders. Only through such respectful and compassionate listening can we enter on the paths of true growth and awaken a yearning for the Christian ideal: the desire to respond fully to God's love and to bring to fruition what he has sown in our lives." Amen to that.

I have made the biggest mistakes in my life because I didn't listen well enough. God help us all listen as Saint Francis says, "with the ear of our hearts."