During the Rite of Baptism there is a prayer called the Prayer over the ears and the mouth. The priest says the following words: “May he soon touch your ears to receive his word and your mouth to proclaim his praise.” The question is with all the pressures of life can we really hear God? We know from experience that it is hard to be fully open but being fully open makes all the difference.

In his book ‘Why Don’t People Listen’ Hugh McKay writes the following:

“Listening is one of the most psychologically courageous things we do in our normal personal relationships simply because listening-real listening-involves seriously entertaining the ideas of the other person. That entails the risk of having to change our minds to what we hear.“

These words prompted me to immediately call to mind the upcoming Plenary Council 2020 by the Catholic Church in Australia. I had written about this previously in the parish bulletin of 12th August 2018 but thought it would be good to return to this again as this would be a new concept for many people.

“A Plenary Council is the highest formal gathering of all local churches in the country. A Plenary Council or Synod discuss and legislate on a wide variety of issues, including matters of faith, morals and discipline. The last time a Plenary Council was held in Australia was 1937.”

2018 is known as the “Year of Listening.” This is the first of three phases. Currently all Catholics are invited to be part of this process. Our parish has decided to join the session that will be held at St Mary’s Parish East Malvern on Friday 14th September from 6pm-8pm.

The first question will be “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?” This will be a wonderful opportunity for Catholics to come together to share their faith and their vision for the Church in Australia in the future. It will also represent a challenge as many different views on faith and the church will be expressed. The success of this first phase will depend upon the capacity of all to be able to suspend strongly held viewpoints and consider the views of others that may be quite contrary to our own.

Ultimately we are all called to receive God’s word. To do that we need to really listen and cut out all the noise in our lives. Elijah for instance in 1 Kings 19 could only really listen to God in the stillness of silence. Today we hear the words of Jesus in the Gospel Ephphatha ‘Be Opened’. Jesus wants to heal us where we find it hard to listen. He wants our ears to be open to hear the Good News of Christ and his love. He wants our mouths to be open to speak the Good News of what God is doing in our lives.

In the Gospel Jesus shows he is open to all people. It is this openness that we must try to cultivate daily. Hopefully the Plenary Council 2020 will be conducted in this same spirit of openness.