Sunday, June 16, 2013

"Tell me, teacher." by Sarah Hayes


Today's gospel has so many beautiful lessons for us.  Lessons about forgiveness, humility, judgment, gratitude, and grace.  Yet as the gospel was read in mass, something new jumped out at me.  It was this little exchange between Jesus and Simon:

Jesus:               "Simon, I have something to say to you."
Simon:             "Tell me, teacher."

"Simon, I have something to say to you."  I can't help but wonder what Simon's interior dialogue was after that statement.  Often when someone says to me, "Sarah, I need to talk to you" my stomach flips a bit and my mind races as I think to myself, "Uh oh, what's wrong? What did I do? What is coming next?" 
Tonight I heard these words differently though.  "Simon, I have something to say to you."  As if Jesus was saying "Simon, this is important, please hear me." Or, "Simon, I love you, please let these words sink in and change you."  Or, "Simon, you're ready to learn this important lesson, so listen closely." 

As I sat in mass (and in the hours that followed) I couldn't help but wonder how many times God has said to me, "Sarah, I have something to say to you" . . . and I  have missed it. 

The times he has wanted to teach me some specific lesson (like Simon) but I was preoccupied with some other specific thing I was seeking an answer to.  The times he has wanted to simply say to me, "Sarah, I love you" but my mind was clouded with negativity and his voice drowned out by the words of shame, fear, and self-disappointment.  The times he has wanted to say to me, "Sarah, everything will be okay" but I was too busy to pray because . . . I was trying to make everything okay on my own. 

The times he has wanted to say to me something entirely new - about himself, about the way he created me, about my future, about our future (God and I) - and I've been looking back on old things.  The times he has wanted to point out to me something beautiful and I looked too long at the broken or the ugly.
"I have something to say to you."  He says this to each of us in prayer.  Yet so often we go to him, "Lord, I have something to say to you."  We go with a list of requests or desperate pleas.  We go to unload our weary restless minds, to get out what we have to say.  Of course neither of those are bad.  God wants to hear what we have to say and he can certainly handle whatever we unload.  But lets not miss the opportunity to hear what he desires to tell us. 

Simon didn't miss the opportunity.  "Tell me, teacher."  Sure, Simon jumped the gun and judged the woman who washed and kissed Jesus' feet.  But I can't help but see sincerity in his response, "Tell me, teacher."  He refers to Jesus as "teacher", aware Jesus has something to teach.  Perhaps also aware he himself has something to learn. 

In those words of Simon, I catch no hint of sarcasm or eye-rolling (as I might have, if they were my exasperated response, "Tell me, teacher.  What do you have to say?!").  I hear sincerity, openness, a willingness to listen, a genuine desire to learn from the teacher. 

I think in the upcoming days of this ordinary time, I will approach my prayer in an out of the ordinary way.  I'll first take time to hear the Lord say, "Sarah, I have something to say to you."  And I'll answer, "Tell me, teacher."

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