A Listening Heart
“Give your servant therefore an understanding heart, to judge your people
and to distinguish right from wrong.”
(1 Kings 3:9, New American Bible)*
This is how King Solomon responded when God prompted him to make a request that HE, GOD, would grant.
A listening heart is undoubtedly something crucial—also for us people of today. How much information we take in every day, how many opinions are conveyed to us in the newspapers, radio, television, and in numerous ways on the internet! How difficult it is to distinguish what is good and what is evil, what is truth, lies, or manipulation. It truly is challenging to hear God’s voice among the many voices and sounds and to recognize what is right according to his will, to recognize the ways he wants to lead us so that all people and every individual find “fullness of life.”
Father Kentenich was convinced: “The good Lord wants to tell me something personally through everything that happens in world events. We may assume that we are at the center of his interest and that he is interested in the smallest details, and that connected in his government of the world there is a message for me in everything that happens. We should hear God’s message in every little thing [that happens]. It could be anything. The question always should be: “Dear God, what are you trying to tell me with this?”
This question became, so to speak, a basic attitude of the founder of Schoenstatt that was practiced every day. He suggested making a kind of daily review: Look for the signs of God’s love; discern his guidance in every happening, every encounter—in the nice and the difficult moments of the day. He himself practiced this masterfully. So much so, that on the day of Father Kentenich’s funeral, Bishop Tenhumberg could say:
“I have never experienced a person of whom I was so convinced that at every moment he was listening intently; he listened to God, and was therefore a deeply obedient person.”
To listen attentively it is important to become quiet yourself, to take time, to give space to the other person. This applies also in a special way to our relationship with God. Those who give a permanent place to silence, to prayer, in their daily lives are most likely to avoid the danger of being swept up in the multitude of opinions and events and of simply going with the flow of the masses.
Something Father Kentenich said which makes one sit up and take notice is this:
“The deeper reason there is a lack of great personalities
is the lack of contemplation, of silence.”
With a practical example he once explained in a conversational tone to an American couple how listening to God can happen very concretely:
“Reflecting we ask: What happened yesterday during the whole day? What did I experience yesterday? In my store, for example? I had to deal with employees and how difficult this made life for me! Now, what do I do? I have to think: Is this a coincidence? … You see, now the question for me is: Dear God, what are you trying to tell me? … On account of me, my workers treated me so harshly today. You see, it is already great progress if I say to myself the good Lord is behind this. Even if he just permitted it … Now you have to think about what he is trying to tell you.
Oh, the good Lord, he can often say much with just a few words. Maybe he wants to tell me: Be careful, you have to overcome the harshness that is in you, too! How many people have suffered under your harshness until now?! … Of course, now I have to ask you to practice this. Look, it’s like this: If you get into the habit of practicing this often, then later it will just be a habit for you to use every event that happens in a similar way.”
Impulse for life
A little listening exercise for each day: Seek silence, and think about experiences and encounters. What moved me? In what is God speaking to me?
“Lord, teach us to pray! … Take care that we learn again to listen, to listen to what you are saying through inspirations; to hear what you are saying through fate in our life, to what you are saying to us through the great needs of the present time!” J. Kentenich