In today’s Gospel, a scribe who engaged Jesus in dialogue with is told—in encouragement and even perhaps accolade—that he is not far from the Kingdom of God. What has the scribe done to receive this reassurance from Jesus that he has “answered with understanding”? Described his love for God over all else? Given a few examples of how he cares for his neighbor? No: he simply listened. He listened to Jesus’ answer about the greatest two commandments, and then, slightly paraphrasing, repeated it back to him.

 Anyone with a skilled spiritual director, therapist, or wise friend might recognize this activity. It demonstrates attention and care without suggesting solutions or providing opinions on what has been shared. The listener feels understood. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that “[we] forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.” Today’s scribe gives us a small lesson in the value of such service.

—Catherine Ruffing Drotleff current serves as Development Director for the Ignatian Spirituality Project, based in Chicago IL.