In the gospel today Jesus gives a very simple instruction:
Pay attention to what I am telling you.
Pay attention. How good are we at that any more? Can we focus our minds on what someone else is actually saying and allow ourselves to hear and understand it?
Our first problem is the myth of multi-tasking. The human mind can only focus on one information source at a time. When we tell ourselves we are multi-tasking our attention is really just flitting back and forth between things. Neither one is getting our full attention.
Our second great problem is spin. The minute anyone begins to speak we spin their words based on what we already think of them. We hear selectively.
The best recent example is the Affordable Care Act. If you call it Obamacare, democrats like it more, republicans like it less. Everyone has an opinion about it. Yet, how many Americans have actually read and understood it? I will confess I have not read it all, and therefore cannot speak intelligently about it one way or the other. But how many of us will admit that? Instead we are content to parrot what our favorite politician or pundit says about it.
I simply use it here as an example of how often we would rather talk than listen; we would rather argue than discuss.
Jesus calls us to do what may be one of the most difficult things for us to do
If we cannot, stop, be quiet, and pay attention to the ordinary things and people around us, how can we hope to truly pay attention to something as profound as the words of Jesus.