This post originally appeared in the IPS Virtual Chapel
Several weeks ago I did a 7 day silent retreat, and the silence was sweet indeed. But maybe silence isn’t even the right word since, to be honest, it wasn’t actually all that silent. It was more like a moment of intense listening: listening to the voice of God, listening to his call, listening to his invitation to follow him along a path I can’t fully see.
In his message for Lent Pope Francis touched on the importance of listening to God. “As a man, Jesus of Nazareth is a true son of Israel; he embodies that perfect hearing required of every Jew by the Shema, which today too is the heart of God’s covenant with Israel.” The Holy Father goes on to explain what this means by quoting the book of Deuteronomy. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deut. 6:4-5).” And he concludes with this stirring reminder of what we hear when we actually listen: “As the Son of God, Jesus is the Bridegroom who does everything to win over the love of his bride, to whom he is bound by an unconditional love which becomes visible in the eternal wedding feast.”
When we listen to God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength, we begin to understand the true meaning of mercy. We begin to sense deep in our souls that the eternal feast of heaven awaits, and that God’s mercy, made visible in Jesus, is drawing us home. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for enhanced Lenten listening.
- Daily Commitment to Prayer. Just 10 minutes a day, every day. As part of this try out the Liturgy of the Hours (the Magnificat magazine is very helpful for this). The Liturgy of the Hours is the prayer of the whole Church, with Christ, to the Father. You can’t do much better than that.
- Early to Bed and Early to Rise… Maybe we’re not seeking to be wealthy, but healthy and wise aren’t all that bad. Why not cut out that 11:00 news and go to bed earlier? That translates into an earlier wake up, and more quality time for daily prayer.
- A Retreat. If you can’t make it to an actual retreat, check out the online retreats at the RC Spirituality Center.
- Read. My favorite Lenten book is Richard John Neuhaus’s Death on a Friday Afternoon. It’s an inspiring and challenging exploration of Christ’s 7 last words from the Cross, and of their enormous relevance for our daily life. What’s yours?
God’s mercy is gently insistent; God’s mercy is transforming; God’s mercy is without end. All he asks is that we listen.