By The Rev. Dr. Herman Yoos
What are you listening for these days? Right now, and for the next nine months, we are all being bombarded by political commercials, each promising a variety of things to win our votes. Yet beneath this election frenzy of voices clamoring for attention, there is another voice, a quieter voice inviting our deepest listening.
In Luke 9, Jesus invites Peter, James and John to a mountain with him to pray. There Jesus is transformed. Moses and Elijah appear with him talking about his departure, that is his upcoming crucifixion. Then a cloud overshadows the disciples and from this cloud comes voice saying, “This is my son, my chosen; listen to him.”
Now one might have expected this heavenly voice to say something such as, “This is my son, obey him, serve him, worship him or give him your deepest allegiance.” Listening is not usually high on our priority list of discipleship practices, yet over and over again the scriptures proclaim that God is a God who wants to communicate with us. The same God who spoke the world into being, whose Word separated the night from the day and whose Living Word in Jesus Christ became flesh and blood to dwell among us and to give his life for us – is the same God who invites us to “be still and know that God is God.”
Over the years, the hardest thing for me about learning to pray has been taking the time to listen to God. It is why I practice 20 minutes of silence each day as a part of my prayer discipline because I am much more comfortable telling God what I think is important than I am listening to God telling me what matters most to God. Silence reminds me I am not in control of my life, including my random thoughts that come and go. Silence opens me to a deeper source of wisdom that goes beyond the words that one speaks. Silence is a way of helping me be in a stance of open receptivity to God’s guidance and the Holy Spirit’s nudging. Silence helps me to participate in the holy mystery of the Trinity.
Father Thomas Keating writes: “prayer is the opening of mind and heart-our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words and emotions. Through grace we open our awareness to God whom we know by faith within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing – closer than consciousness itself.”
Recently I read an annual report from one of our deacons who wrote that her goal for this year is to become a better listener. I wrote her back saying what a significant goal that is for me as well. After all, we live in a noisy world with a 24-hour news cycle, with 24 hour-music and sports entertainment, and with unlimited access to information at the touch of our finger tips about anything we might want to know. Yet this information explosion cannot satisfy our deepest yearning for listening to the one who loves us so much that he gave his life for us on a cross.
It is my prayer this Lenten season, which we are entering, will be a time for holy listening, for being still and quiet and for allowing the words of Jesus to dwell more deeply at the center of our lives. Lent is an invitation from God to rearrange one’s priorities, to ponder anew the mystery of God’s unfathomable grace and forgiveness. Lent gives us the opportunity to grow in our faith practices of listening, loving and learning as disciples and followers of Jesus. No wonder that voice from the cloud said to the disciples and to us, “This is my son, my chosen; listen to him!”
Blessed Lenten Listening,
Bishop Herman Yoos