Fr. Andreas Agathokleous
People today have a real need to speak and to be heard. When the most profound experiences are shared, the pleasant ones are intensified and the unpleasant ones are alleviated But only when those who are listening ‘listen with their heart’.
If you’re going to listen with your heart, you have to be interested in the other person, have real love and humility. In other words, you have to be in a state where you transcend your self (‘Let them deny themselves’). Then you don’t judge, you’re not in a hurry, you’re not indifferent. The other person will then relax, open up and be at ease.
Is there anyone who doesn’t see the judgmentalism, the dismissiveness and the indifference which, openly or covertly, are the dominant factors in our world? Despite that, however, people do exist who, even though others don’t set much store by them, have the gift of love and are able to attract the overlooked and tormented. They give hope and strength and transfuse life.
Christ talked about the ‘little flock’. He elevated the hapless and the scorned. He protected the woman taken in adultery from the fury of the moralists. He lived in a way that was contrary to that of those practicing religion, and taught things that were far from mundane and ‘respectable’.
In truth, who can live as he did? Who can apply his teaching exactly? And, if they do apply it, who won’t come into conflict with the religious and social establishment?
In the end, experiencing the Gospel begins in our heart and makes its way outwards in a way that’s appropriate to each of us. This is why, although this means variety, it also means that love and humility are common to all. Without these two attributes there’s no real spirituality and true experience of God.
Yet the reality of human weakness remains a given and ‘our sin is ever before us’. But those who wish to enjoy the heights begin by walking the foothills.
The spiritual life is the basis of the Christian life. Christ calls us, as his disciples, to love one another. Our ‘neighbor’ in each instance is different, as are his or her needs.
If we begin to listen to our neighbor, with whatever needs they may have, we’ll begin to put into practice the commandment of love. At the same time, our being will be filled with joy and plenitude, since we’ll be transcending our self for the sake of him who loved us; who was crucified and sacrificed for us.
The ‘sublime and heavenly’, which we think aren’t for us and are far beyond us, then become ordinary and simple, tangible realities in the person of our ‘neighbor’, in whom our God is reflected.