The Listening Heart

How much information do we really need to face the situations that effect our daily lives and where should we begin? There is information at the tips of my fingers for everything that could possibly pertain to the world around me. But information does not tell us how to live with and love those we meet or those at a distance impacted by our choices. It is merely data. We all need counsel in difficult times and in a world of endless choice, where should we turn?

Perhaps the wisest man in all of scripture was King Solomon. But Solomon was full of doubt, deeply concerned that he could not govern his people wisely. He knew that, like his father David before him, he was a flawed man attempting to govern a wayward people. Upon inheriting the kingship Solomon did what any good Jewish son would do, he travelled to the shrine at Gibeon where the ark of the covenant was housed, and there he made a sacrifice. Then, still troubled by many questions, he did the only logical thing. He slept on it. That night he had a dream in which God appeared and said, “Whatever you ask I shall give you.” (Kg 3:5) Here Solomon gave the answer that would define his life. “Lord, give your servant a listening heart.” (Kg 3:9) 

Lev shomea, a heart that “listens/obeys.” Shema in Hebrew connotes both the act of listening and obedience. To obey is to listen. And for us as Christians this is synonymous with encountering the Word, the Son of God, the highest good who calls us to be the stewards of life. Solomon, prince of wisdom, gave us this advise, “Instruct the wise, and they become still wiser; teach the just, and they advance in learning. The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov 9:9-10) Our concerns encompass many things. We fear for our safety and security, for our health and welfare, our jobs, the planet, our families. Now is the time to feel a deep concern for the soul. It is the one great concern, the heart which is hardened, closed to the consoling voice. 

Not much is required. Our souls are in constant conversation with God, whether we are aware or not. The mind may sleep alone in the desert but the heart still knows the source of living water. “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (Sam 16:7) As we are pulled this way and that by the world, wandering as the Israelites of old, God knows every fear and joy, and without ceasing he speaks to our hearts. Today, let us turn and listen in the spirit of St. Augustine:

Be not vain, my soul, and take care that the ear of your heart be not deafened by the din of your vanity. You too must listen to the selfsame Word who calls you back, and there find a place of imperturbable quiet, where love is never forsaken unless it chooses to forsake. 

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