Homily: Listening Enthusiast

February 23, 2019

This homily, based on the same gospel reading we have today, was originally delivered in February 2016

Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (Mark 9:2-13)

Perhaps you’ve seen the recent television commercial for National Car Rental. The customer wanted things done his way – the right way. He chooses National Car Rental so he can bypass the check-in counter, get into whatever car he wants, and drive away. He never has to engage in conversation with another human being. He has total control, which is the way he likes it.

The commercial begins with the man saying: “I’ve been called a control freak. I prefer to think of myself as a control enthusiast.”

In 2010, Psychology Today offered an online quiz to help determine whether or not one might be considered a control freak. For the purposes of the quiz, a control freak was defined as a person who feels a need to prove himself, be in charge, or get his way.

Here is a sample of some of the questions from that quiz:

Do you dislike depending on others, accepting help from them, or allowing them to do things for you?

Do you “help” other people drive – tell them what route to take, when to turn, and where to park?

Are you the one who steps in and orders people around?

I took the quiz and it might surprise my wife to hear, that based on my score, I am not a control freak.

However, I did fall into the second category, which indicated that I do have some control issues that might need to be addressed.

I prefer to think of myself as a control enthusiast.


Two weeks ago we heard the story of Peter dropping his nets and following Jesus. He gave up his livelihood and left family behind to follow a nomadic preacher. While this is certainly impetuous, we are not alerted to any control issues he might have had at that point.

However, there are other examples from Peter’s discipleship that tell a different story.

We saw it at the Last Supper when Peter initially refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet. Remember the control freak quiz?

Peter disliked depending on others, or allowing them to do things for him.

How about the occasion when Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered with confidence, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus then shared that He was indeed the Christ, and because of that must suffer greatly.

Peter would have none of it! “God forbid, Lord!” he said. “No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He “helped” Jesus drive and told Him what route to take.

Today we have another example. Peter was a witness to the transfiguration of Jesus. What a gift to be there as Christ was once again revealed to him! Without taking any time to process what he had seen, he immediately began planning.

Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

He jumped right in – He was the one who stepped in and ordered other people around.

 Peter was a control freak.

Luke was quick to call him out in today’s Gospel. He wrote, “But Peter did not know what he was saying.”

As a disciple, Peter often did not know what he was saying. He was so intent on maintaining or assuming control that he didn’t take it all in. He didn’t take the time to just listen.

So God was very deliberate in His words to Peter and the others: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

The word listen is found in scripture over 400 times. It must be important.

How many times has God invited us to listen? How many times do we actually do it? What keeps us from hearing what He has to say?

Maybe you don’t listen because you are unable to filter out the noise of the world. You are bombarded with sensory messages and are unable to decipher which messages are important and which are simply fleeting sound bites.

Perhaps your image of God is that of an aloof superpower that moves the chess pieces of humanity around on a giant board. You pray to Him when you need something, but why listen? You don’t expect Him to actually answer you.

Or maybe you are that control enthusiast I’ve been talking about, the person that chooses not to listen to anyone else.

As Dr. Phil might ask, “How’s that working out for you?”

Listening to others, even if it is God, means taking the focus off of us and our own needs. It means veering off the path we had planned, and giving up at least partial control. It might mean having to learn to trust. None of this is easy for a control enthusiast.

However, listening is our access to understanding. We should accept God’s invitation to listen. It is particularly important during the Lenten season, when we are called to bring ourselves into right relationship with God.

Can you imagine trying to improve or re-kindle a relationship with a friend or loved one without ever having a conversation with him?

Relationships are built on two-way communication. How can we have a personal relationship with God if we’re doing all of the talking? As you’ve heard me say before, prayer is not a monologue.

Listening is a critical component of the relationship. In order to be intentional in our listening, we must occasionally seek silence. Be still and know that I am God.

 The following was written by Sister Mary Clare, a Carmelite nun: God cannot be found in noise and agitation. In silence, God listens to us. In silence, listen to Him. In silence, God speaks to our souls and the power of His word is enough to transform our very being. We cannot listen to God and to the world at the same time. We need the sacred space that silence creates in order to turn our undivided attention toward God even if it is only for a few precious moments of our day.

If you are one who likes control, use that to your advantage and take control of your time. Choose to spend some of it in silence. Choose to listen.

During this Lenten season, seek silence and listen to what God has to say to you.

Consider becoming a listening enthusiast.

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