Learning to Listen – The Art and the Skill
It is only possible to please God when we have earnestly sought Him and allowed Him to speak to us through prayer, scripture, sacraments and contemplation. The Rule of Benedict teaches us to “Listen with the ear of our hearts”. I am a Charismatic Catholic Christian and spirituality to me is very much about being open to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit of paying attention to His still small voice and observing His work in my life and the lives of others. We cannot have a relationship with any human being of any depth if we don’t spend time listening to them and the cry of their hearts. How much more so do we have to shut out the world and take time to be silent before our God to hear what He is actually saying to us?
“There has never been one way of living an authentic spiritual life, nor one sure way to union with God. We see that the Christian spiritual tradition is like a mountain, containing within it many seams waiting to be mined. Most approaches to spirituality in history mine the same vein over and over again” Michael Downey, Understanding Christian Spirituality, p68 Paulist Press, 1997.
Christian Spirituality can be defined in as many ways as the human beings who have experienced it. It can be described as a relationship with God, ourselves, others and God’s creation, and I also believe that to have an authentic Christian spirituality we must be walking with the Holy Spirit, not to would be foolishness. As St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10-18:
‘Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these,take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.’
This world is filled with temptations and distractions designed to draw our focus away from God. The luxuries that we have can become blockages to spending time alone with God. Our souls are longing to spend time being refreshed and infilled with the Spirit of God but our minds, hearts, human spirits and bodies get entangled in the busyness of the world we live in and the constant noise about us deadens us to the realization that God is speaking and His still small voice will not be heard above the cacophony of daily life, the TV, Internet, the traffic, the phone, the worries of life. Yet He calls us to stop and listen.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
I try to quiet my own thoughts and words to pay attention to what God is saying to me, what others are saying to me and how I can use that gift of listening to enhance the quality of my relationships. Sometimes I listen to the problems of others and pray for them and care for them and realize that I have not taken time to deal with my own problems. I have not taken time to listen to the voice within that also needs to be heard. Loving myself is a struggle for me.
Loving God’s creation, planet earth and all that inhabits it is a daunting task. Taking care of our environment is vitally important – the earth is not self-sustaining – we must be good stewards because we are only tenants God is the owner. As God declares in Genesis: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26-28). This statement alerts us to the great responsibility that has been placed upon all of us to love and protect our planet and all that inhabits it. When we are doing this we are obeying God’s instructions.
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), who was an abbess, a prophet, a mystic visionary, a healer and a theologian who lived during the middle ages, has said that “Everything that is in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.” This truth was revealed to her in a vision in which she saw the Universe in the form of an egg with everything inside the egg dependent on all the other parts. We are all part of God’s great cosmic plan and vision. We must always be mindful of this great truth.
Marion Sinclair-Simpson (C)