The art of listening
We need to learn this art. It plays a crucial and strategic role in our life. In many instances in the gospel, Christ told people after preaching, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mt 11,15)
Let us try to avoid Christ's reproach, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand...For their heart has become calloused.” (Mt 13,13.15)
We need to realize first of all that of all the words that we have to handle, we have to give priority to the word of God as recorded especially in Sacred Scripture. That's simply because that word contains all the truth, the saving truth that we need to know.
God's word is always relevant to every situation we can find ourselves in. God's word should inspire and guide our human word, be it a word of our common sense, or of our philosophies, theologies, sciences, arts and technologies, or of our culture and history, etc.
Remember what the Letter to the Hebrews says of God's word: “The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (4,12) God's word is both the first and the last word, as well as the word in between.
When Christ said that he who has ears to hear, let him hear, he is actually inviting us to listen closely to his word and try our best to discern and fathom its true intent.
Let's take that invitation seriously. We have to develop the habit of meditating on the word of God in some regular if not abiding way. This recommendation is somehow expressed in the very first of the psalms:
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night.” (1,1-2)
And in meditating on God's word, let us always ask the Holy Spirit to prompt us or to tell us what and how to understand that word. It cannot be denied that there are many who have also meditated on God's word on their own, without the help of the Holy Spirit, and have come out with their own interpretations, their own spins and biases.
Pertinent to this point, this is what Christ said of the Holy Spirit: “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own initiative, but whatever he hears, he will speak, and he will disclose to you what is to come.” (Jn 16,13)
And as St. Paul said, anyone taught by the Spirit would know how to combine spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. (cfr. 1 Cor 2,13) In other words, our thoughts and words would not simply remain in the purely human or worldly terms. They become thoughts and words of the Spirit as well.
It's when we learn how to listen to the word of God, with the help of the Holy Spirit, that we achieve what is said of the good soil in the parable of the sower and the seed.
“The seed falling on good soil,” Christ said, “refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Mt 13,23)*
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