“Listen humbly & speak courageously”  in 2019

“Listen humbly & speak courageously” in 2019

We make the journey into 2019 with faith, hope, and love. May we not allow the darkness of despair and selfishness to cloud our vision of Jesus who leads us with joy.

During last year’s Synod on Youth, Pope Francis mentioned several times words of encouragement that we can all take into 2019. He insisted that we are to LISTEN WITH HUMILITY and SPEAK WITH COURAGE.

Let us first consider the wisdom to LISTEN WITH HUMILITY.

Pope Francis wants us to be open to newness. We are to be open to the surprises of God. For this to happen we must be the People of God who listens to the voice of God who whispers deep within the human heart. There is a beautiful expression from our Catholic Tradition whereby St Benedict (480-547) instructs us to “Listen carefully and incline the ear of your heart.” It is the opening expression in his famous Rule. To “listen carefully” is an act of profound humility. Our heart becomes docile and receptive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit within us.

Then there is the allied response to SPEAK WITH COURAGE. Pope Francis wants us to cease all gossiping and idle chattering of shared prejudices. “Love never fails” (Cor. 13/8) us! With only love, there is true freedom in truth and charity. We can dialogue in honesty. This is the case even when we have rather challenging things to share. Pope Frances insists that we can speak even then with boldness and frankness. In the love of “only Jesus” (Mark 9/8) in our heart and words, we can be used mightily by the Holy Spirit.

Let us be aware, however, of two deadly traps to dialogue as we enter into 2019.

The first trap is that we LISTEN WITH HUMILITY but we do not SPEAK WITH COURAGE. In other words, we keep to ourselves something that we really feel needs to be said. This is a form of selfishness. It deprives others of what, indeed, maybe Godly wisdom. A beautiful quote from the 4th-century Archbishop of Milan, St Ambrose, could be extended here, although it was originally applied to sharing generously our money and possessions with the poor. He said, “God does not consider what one gives but what one keeps.”

Another trap to real dialogue in 2019 is the other extreme. Namely, this is to SPEAK WITH COURAGE but refusing to LISTEN WITH HUMILITY. Here we likely become victim to our own prejudices and narrow ideologies. Ultimately, we inflict our opinions on others. Dialogue now too becomes a monologue. Surely it is a form of arrogance.

So, as 2019 opens up, let us dialogue with two lungs: Listening humbly and speaking courageously! It is a real Gospel strategy. It reminds me of the saving words of Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13/34). Let us imitate Jesus always!

May I offer a final observation? To SPEAK WITH COURAGE does not always need to be expressed verbally. Non-verbal communication, as we all know, can also be very powerful. Indeed, in regard to evangelisation, it is a superb way of drawing others into conversion to Christ Jesus, the love of our lives. It makes me recall the famous words attributed to St Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary use words.”

May you all be truly blessed by the Holy Spirit in 2019.


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  • Dennis Sleigh 2 weeks

    Thank you, Archbishop, for your well-crafted and very edifying comments – they would make a wonderful pastoral letter at the start of Lent. Given the current emphasis (?) on the forth-coming Synod 2020, perhaps you could also share it with your fellow hierarchs – having first reversed, for their benefit, the title of your message, asking the bishops to listen courageously and speak humbly in 2019.