When was the last time you had goosebumps listening to music?

John 5:17-30. Jesus describes God as the Father

“I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgement is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” Reading this gospel is quite challenging to follow, because Jesus seems to shift His voice from a “person” perspective and from a “God” perspective. The 30th verse is the one that resonated with me the most. But before I continue my reflection, I have a question:

When was the last time you had goosebumps listening to music?

At that moment, we don’t simply “hear” the word and “judge” the music if we like it or not. At that moment, the listening experience becomes so visceral, as if we are undeniably entangled with the music and the waves of the sounds. At that moment, we are wholly at the present, then and there. At a deeper level, we can even derive insights from the patterns of tension and release, the groove echoing the routines of life; the unexpected notes as the spice of our lives.

Musicians enter that state of flow, or maybe something even beyond flow — a spiritual experience — where their hands take over, and the notes become a language of their own.

At the experiential level, I think that this musical experience is near to what Jesus means as “hearing the Word”. It’s not about passively hearing coffeehouse jazz in a cafe or city pop grooves while in an elevator. Rather, it’s internalizing and savoring the words as if they are melodies of a song.

The live music experience is an exercise of mindfulness and authenticity. This is the kind of mindfulness and authenticity that God can perceive and understand at all times, and this allows God to be just, because He sees all evidence.

So maybe the key is to live life like a musician or a live music audience — bringing one’s fullest self in the moment, enjoying the call and response, acknowledging that tension-suffering and resolution-pleasure is a state of life. Sometimes we play the wrong notes yet we’re able to make it work. What matters is we continue to play and listen to the music, going beyond superficial hearing.


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