Photo of the Parthenon against a blue sky. The words "Is it true, good, useful? are imposed over the sky
Fr Andrew Bwalya sitting in a chair

Fr. Andrew Bwalya, mccj

is a Comboni Missionary from Zambia. He is the director of the New People Media Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, and editor of New People, a Comboni magazine.

By: Andrew Bwalya, mccj

We live in a jungle of words.

Daily, we are bombarded with words that come to us in various forms, be they written or spoken or digital, all screaming for our attention.

Today, thanks to technology the digital word arrives on our smartphones without us soliciting it. On the other hand, encircled by so many words, we are faced with the daunting task of discerning which words are more important than others. The solution lies in genuine and attentive listening.

Pope Francis suggests that listening is “the first indispensable ingredient of dialogue and good communication.”

In his message for the 56th World Social Communications Day 2022, he underscored the importance of listening in the practice of journalism, in Church life, and in our everyday relationships.

World Social Communications Day was inaugurated as an annual celebration in 1967 by Pope Paul VI. He wanted the Church to reflect not only on the challenges posed by modern means of social communication but also on the opportunities inherent in them for the spreading of the gospel message.

Francis aptly has titled the theme of this year’s message Listening with the ear of the heart. According to him, “there is no good journalism without the ability to listen.” He also says that “in order to provide solid, balanced, and complete information, it is necessary to listen for a long time.” Obviously, he applies these statements to the Church as well.

Without a sincere attitude of listening, the Church cannot make progress. The success of the synodal journey, which is currently underway, will largely depend on how much space will be given to listening. A disdainful mentality will defeat the whole process. Instead, listening to one another will broaden our horizons and potentially open a new way of being Church.

Pope Francis dares even to say that, in the Church, “the most important task in pastoral activity is the apostolate of the ear.”

Listening with the ear of the heart is equally crucial in everyday interpersonal relationships. Every person wants to be heard. Therefore, whenever we listen to one another, we also express respect and love for each other. In the absence of listening, true communication collapses and doors of mistrust, aggression, and gossip open wide.

Authentic listening puts us on the path to what is true and good. In the field of journalism, this is evidenced in news that is objective, truthful, and accurate. The contrary is “fake news” that ridicules and manipulates the audience for vested selfish interests. Certainly, Church media and Christian media practitioners must shun such journalism.

Socrates, one of the greatest Greek philosophers (469 – 399 BC), was praised for his wisdom. One day, an acquaintance ran up to him and asked: “Do you know what I just heard about a certain person?” Socrates submitted the news the man wanted to give him to the ‘triple filter test’:

“Is it true, good, and useful?”

“Not really,” the other answered.

“Well,” Socrates concluded, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor useful, why tell me?” This question is of perennial value.

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