In a priory of nineteen men, you would hear a lot of funny things. At the dinner table, you would have conversations about Aristotle and Kant, or the theology of The Hobbit, or how mom and dad are doing, on a daily basis.
One of the more interesting and recent conversations came from Brother Daniel the Wise. He recently acquired some hardware for his ears. Taking out a small remote from his pocket, he started telling us about the many settings of his hearing aids, the multiple settings, the things that the aids drown out, that sorta thing.
I responded, “So is there a setting to drown out certain frequencies?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Just wondering if you have a setting for ‘pastor’ or ‘prior’ or ‘Isaiah’ so you can just selectively not hear certain voices.”
He didn’t deny nor confirm such an ability.
There is a distinction between hearing and listening. We hear God’s voice all of the time. Through reading the Word of God. Talking to people that lift you up. Going to Mass. This is a reasonably passive act. God speaks to us through sunsets and the smell of the air. We don’t have to do much to realize the presence of God. We just have to look around the City or hear the wind.
Yet listening, in my mind, is much more active. You listen to a loved one or a symphony. It’s active. You attempt to soak in every nuance and word, slowly digesting what is given to you, discerning the nuances that the speaker or music is saying to you. With listening, you allow what is being said to effect you, change you, move you to action. With hearing…well, you just acknowledge that the noise is there.
For me, hearing is like slamming back a coke. Listening is sipping a glass of Cabernet.
God speaks to us all of the time. Through sunsets, loved ones, the news and worship. However, when we sink into mysterious silence, do we listen to what God has to say? Do we allow the soft whispers of love and compassion, His subtle instructions towards holiness, His consolations through the dark times and the praises through the bright times change us, effect us, make us holy.
I don’t listen well, and I don’t care what anyone else says. I am certain that I need to learn how to listen better, and to listen more. Perhaps I’m getting there. Perhaps I’m listening to what He is saying as I am writing this post.
Nonetheless, may we listen to the Word of God, and allow the Word to change us, and make us the saints that we are called to be.
Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!