The first duty of love is to…?

Catherine Arnold, OP
Blog by Sr. Cathy Arnold, OP

As I prepared a reflection for the readings for Wednesday, January 13, including 1 Samuel 3:1-10, 19-20; Psalm 40:2,5,7-8A, 8B-9,10; and Mark 1:29-39, I came across a quote by philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich who said, “The first duty of love is to listen.” The quote caught me off guard when I first saw it last week in one of the daily reflections from pace e bene, an organization that works for justice and peace through non-violent actions.

The first duty of love is to listen? I thought for sure the first duty of love is to help or give care or heal or pray as Jesus did in today’s gospel. But if you read today’s passage closely, you notice that before Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, he listened to what the others told him about her. Only then did he approach her, grasp her hand, and help her up.

“The first duty of love is to listen.” The reading from the book of Samuel is one of the readings often used when inviting someone to explore her or his own vocation call. The Lord calls to Samuel who at first doesn’t understand where the call is coming from until someone helps him. Through Eli’s own listening to what was happening to Samuel, he was able to guide Samuel to stop and listen to what the Lord was speaking to him.

How about you in your own vocation story? Is there or was there a person or persons who have invited you to listen to the still small voice within and to consider how God might be inviting you?

“The first duty of love is to listen.”

What about now? What about us – personally and in our families and communities? Our psalm today reminds us that it’s not the sacrifices and burnt offerings that God desires from us, but rather ears open to obedience, responding whole heartedly to the law of God, to the movement of the Spirit, present within our hearts. We will know what to be and what to do next through our listening to our own hearts, to each other, to those we meet, to those in need and to Earth itself. Our love will grow as we listen and act accordingly.

Today and every day, may we be open to the grace of good and responsive listening. And just for fun – fill in the blank above, what do you think is the first duty of love?

If you would like a place to come and spend some time listening with others who are also praying about a Dominican vocation as a Sister, please consider coming to Columbus, Ohio, for the March 11-13, 2016 Come and See Retreat. Click here for more details.

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4 responses to “The first duty of love is to…?

  1. Thank you, Cathy. we cannot hear the message to listen often enough. Everyone wants to be heard so let us pray we listen and listen more deeply to each other. God bless you abundantly!

  2. The article written by Sr. Cathy Arnold, OP,about “The first duty of love is to listen” is an excellent one and well written. I enjoyed reading it and hope to remember that lesson in my own life. Thank you!

  3. Cathy, your reflection for today is beautiful! and isn’t listening to our hearts where God waits for us the one we are seeking. Thank you so much for pointing out to those who are seeking to take the time to listen. How can seekers not be attracted to God through you!!
    God bless,

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