2nd Sunday Reflection: Listen Then Do: This Means Life!
Franciscan Reflections from The Hermitage – (John 2:1-11)
Following the Rule of Solitude of St Francis, the Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury undertakes an annual solitude experience into the mountains of Wales. This is an experience of transforming old habits of thinking through the practice of silence. All doing things are abandoned; there is no talking, reading, knitting, or any other forms of diversion, not even the washing of dishes.
This touch of solitude replicates the luminal moments of birth, suffering, and death, entering into the doorway between the immanent and the transcendent, the world of time and space and the world of the eternal.
Birth, suffering, death, and solitude transform us, allowing us to come face to face with the source of our thoughts, the metaphor of our ways of thinking, being, and doing. This is coming face to face with thinking about thinking, the habits, and processes that we use to relate to the world.
In less than twenty-four hours, the masks that we wear and the illusions about who we are starting to crack and disintegrate. This brings the participants into communion with the source of Being, the Godhead with a human heart beating through the cosmos.
At the Baptism of Jesus in the waters of the Jordan, “A voice came out of the cloud, ‘this is my beloved; listen to him.'” As Jesus is about to reveal himself to his disciples at Cana changing water into wine, His Mother said to the servant, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Divine origin and human mother; the two natures of Jesus the Christ that point to our own nature as both human and divine. Our nature cannot be different from the source of our being. Jesus merges divine initiative and human will.
Both the heavenly source and the earthly Mother point to their common Son, Jesus, admonishing us to listen and obey Him. This is the confluence of the divine initiative and human will, which must always seek the good of the other; that is the very nature of God, the nature of Love.
Made in the image of God each one is gifted with free will and an inborn desire for the supreme Good according to each of our abilities. This is the central paradox of faith that touches every aspect of our Christian life. The faith teaches us that in every relationship, including prayer, unless our prayer is in accordance with God’s act of will, it lacks the distinctive grace of prayer, and unless it is an act of our will, it does not the merit being our prayer at all but breathed through us without becoming ours.
True relationship in prayer calls for the action of divine initiative and human will come together. The dynamics of the divine-human interplay are complex and many great saints in our history have misheard, or misunderstood the divine imitative and acted contrary to the divine will.
We spend about eighty percent of our waking hours communicating, yet most of this time we are forgetful, preoccupied, not paying attention; our average attention span is only about 22 seconds. This constant change of focus makes it more difficult to listen attentively. Immediately after we hear someone speak, we remember about half of what they have said. A few hours later we remember only about ten percent.
To become a true listening presence requires three practices that are essential elements of this spiritual discipline: (1) cultivating silence, (2) slowing down to reflect, and (3) becoming present. This is the very nature of Mary who is given to us as our mother, the contemplative who holds all these things in our heart, the beloved mother of Jesus that always leads us beyond herself to her own beloved Son.
Listening is more than hearing words and more than an action, it is an art. One of the common themes of art is the sense of being at one with it. Thinking about listening as art changes our perception of what it means to listen. Rather than thinking of listening as an act, something we ‘do’, it is rather the act of ‘becoming’. We become a respectful listening presence when we choose whether we wish to listen.
Learning that we have a choice to listen or to not listen is a very powerful insight. We discover how much better we listen when we know that we have chosen to listen, and how much less stress we have when we know that we have consciously chosen not to listen.
Listening to another with attention may be the greatest gift that we can give to each other. Look closely at the Lovers; when two people listen deeply to one another, we sense that they are present not only to each other but also to something beyond their individual selves, something spiritual, holy, sacred.
Once we think about listening as a gift that we may either give or receive, we find a new light that shines on the value of listening. One of the keys to developing the capacity to listen more deeply is a daily practice. Most of us know that if we want to excel at any skill we need to practice. It is in the daily practice, the spiritual discipline that we prepare ourselves to listen.
Then, when we need to listen deeply, we will be able to focus on the speaker, remaining fully present and aware of what they are saying and who they are being. Becoming a listening presence is critical to learning how to hear and understand ‘the other’. Only then are we called to act.
SAINT FRANCIS’S PRAYER BEFORE THE CRUCIFIX
Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me
true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out
Your holy and true command. Amen.
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