I want to begin with one minute of silence. I’m even going to time it… Now, I suppose some might be thinking, well that’s a pretty cheap way to begin a 3-4 minute reflection.
But, when I think of George Hinger, I can’t think of anything else we could do that would put us more in touch with his spirit. George was devoted to the teachings of Thomas Merton and other contemplatives. And in contemplative practice, to sit in silence is, at its heart and act of profound listening. And no one I have ever met was a more passionate listener than George.
When George listened, it was with reverence. To revere does not mean just to respect (as important as that is), it means to stand in awe of. It is the realization that when we really listen to another, to ourselves or to world in which we live, we stand in a remarkable way in the presence of God. This was something George practiced and something he worked hard to teach others.
It was so much a part of his work throughout his life as a counselor and spiritual director George. Think of all the people that have approached you Audrey in these last 4 months to express their gratitude for George. For his kindness and generosity, yes. Those are virtues that the two of you cultivated with great care. But what set George apart was that when people sat down with him, they felt valued. When people talked with George, they felt heard.
For George though, listening was not just about listening one-on-one. It was about whole cultures in dialog with one another. The work of Ecumenical and Interreligious dialogue that he pursued with such ardor was a reflection of that belief. He believed that to be a truly good Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist or Hindu we needed to speak the truth of God as we have come to know it and to listen with great reverence to that same truth reflected in the traditions, beliefs and lives of those who believe differently.
George, as we come to place your physical remains in the Columbarium today, you will be, quite literally, a part of this holy place. But, you’ve already been that for a long time. What I pray is that this wall, and your little cubicle in it will become a shrine in honor of the holy art of listening. Your work among us isn’t done, we’re just moving you to a new office.