One of the readings today, depending on which lectionary you use, has the miracle of Jesus healing the deaf, mute man. This is regarded by female theologians as the greatest miracle of Jesus. He made a man listen! Still, out of the 37ish miracles that were documented in the New Testament this one was chosen. I think it is because listening was as difficult then as it is now. We live in a world where we are told not to listen to each other. We aren't supposed to listen to those that are politically different, especially during this election season, because "they're crazy." Other religions, too, are labeled as having no inherent value. We strive more than ever to reduce people to one common denominator. You're conservative, liberal, gay, straight, black, white, etc. The many complexities that make up you and your essence are not honored. You are just put into a box from which you can never escape. This, of course, makes it much easier to not listen to each other. This is a shame.
Similarly, while listening to each other we need to listen to God. We have a wonderful example from the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose birthday was celebrated yesterday. Mary was likely a girl in her early teenage years who wanted nothing more than to live with her bethrothed, Joseph, until the end of her life. Instead, she answered the Archangel Gabriel with the words "Let it be to me according to thy word." This simple action took her to many dark places. She saw her son, the only son she had ever known murdered as a common criminal. His friends and disciples were similarly murdered. She lived in excruciating emotional agony. Yet, she listened to God's will for her life. She listened.
The two cannot be mutually exclusive. Sometimes we hear each other and it is hearing the very voice of God acting through us. Who better than our sisters or brothers to let us know that we need to change our ways. Sometimes God tells us that we must reach out to each other. Regardless of how it happens, the take home message today is that we must listen. It can't be a half-hearted listening, but it must be fully aware and sincere. We don't have to agree with the message, but we are duty bound to listen to the story. To care about the speaker regardless of their background or differences. Perhaps in this we will hear the very voice of God.