My Dear Sisters and Brothers! If you think that it is the story of the past let me draw your attention to the last two popes. Pope Benedict was elected five days short of his 78th birthday. Pope Francis was younger at the time of his election, he was only 76. I still remember a cartoon in the Sydney Morning Herald following Pope Benedict’s election. It captured two priests talking about the new pope. One said: “Our Holy Father is very close to God.” The other one retorted: “You are right. At 78 people are very close to God.” In my prayer and reflection I have been analysing this situation. Why doesn’t God give us someone younger and stronger? The answer came to me from the story of Abraham. In the midst of our self-sufficient and self-focused culture we are reminded that the destiny of the world and every human is ultimately shaped by the Almighty. In the wealthy country of Ur where people believed that they had possessed enough to be able to maintain their lifestyle God chose an elderly man who in his fragility was to manifest the power of God as we read in the Second Letter to the Corinthians: “When I am weak, then I am strong.” That old man did become a manifestation of God’s mighty works. His journey to the Land, which was later to be known as the Promised Land, has become an inspiration and an object of meditation not only for the Jews but for Christians and Muslims alike. Abraham has become the father and the teacher of faith. Why? Because Abraham was good at listening. In the Letter to the Romans we read: “Faith comes from listening.” Abraham did listen to the word of God. How did he listen? The Book of Genesis puts it rather simply: “Abram went as the Lord told him.” In Abraham the word of God became a moving force. It wasn’t just an intellectual process of analysing but it was the word which he allowed to move him across the continent.
Abraham’s journey to the unknown land was also an evangelising event as it revealed to others the God who wasn’t withdrawn and silent but speaking to humans. That God “when the fullness of time had come, sent his Son, born of the woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to enable us to be adopted as his children” and the same God has told us: “This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.” Jesus was an excellent listener himself. In his humanity he discerned and was moved by “every word that comes from the mouth of God” as he told Satan in the last Sunday Gospel.
Some people complain about our aging congregations. I however still recognise the pedagogy of God in this situation. God who in the difficult times chooses what is fragile and powerless to manifest his glory.
As we continue our Lenten journey let us look at our Lenten resolutions as a means to purify our listening skills, by putting aside whatever captures our attention in order to allow the Word of God to capture our attention and to move us along the paths which will not only take us to heaven but will also reveal to others the God who is a good listener too, God who listens to the cry of his children.