Of all the words in The Rule of St. Benedict, these two are most important. “Listen….. incline the ear of your heart.” They are also the most challenging.
I think we all know how easy it is to say: “I am listening” when someone calls our attention to the fact that we are not. Perhaps our spouse is nagging us about that something we have been putting off. Suddenly, she/he will say: “Are you listening?” In our defense we reply: “Of course.” Yet, deep in our hearts we know that we are only saying that we are listening. What we have really done is turned off our hearts. We’ve heard the nag before. We just don’t want to hear it again. We are hearing them, but not really listening.
St. Benedict knows how easy it is to listen with only our physical ears. St. Benedict wants us to take listening to God to a deeper dimension. Whenever we talk about “the heart” in Christian Spirituality, we are referring to the whole of self. St. Benedict tells us to listen by inclining the whole of ourselves so that we can receive the loving message of God without tuning God out. Yes, there is some effort on our part being requested here. How sincere are we about making that effort?
How do we know that someone we love has actually listened to us? Because they make an effort to change. The barriers that were there while it appeared that we were talking to a brick wall, are now down. The dust and mortar are all gone. A heart that was stone cold and immovable, is changing and revealing a new way of life.
St. Benedict wants us to remove those barriers that keep us from listening to God. He tells us of the way back to God through the “labor of obedience.” When we incline the ear of our hearts; which means we make the effort on our part to really pay attention to God, the healing and reconciliation of broken relationships is closer to us than we had previously thought. We can live more simply, and contemplate God’s wonders.
Let us listen to God today by inclining the ear of our hearts. Our loving God has awesome things to tell us.
Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB