listen, or just hear

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It’s the feast of St. Benedict today, the patron saint of Europe and of all those who seek to learn.

Happy feast day!

One of the reasons that Benedict is so well remembered and often quoted 1500 years after his death is that he sought to follow Christ without compromise in the circumstances that he encountered. It is a remarkable testimony to him that his writings remain the foundation for religious communities formed in recent decades.

A good quiz question could be “what is the first word of the Rule of St. Benedict?”  Many would rightly answer “listen”.

Fewer would be able to continue with the complete first sentence of the Rule, quoting Proverbs 4:20: Listen “my children, to a father’s instruction: pay attention, and learn what understanding is.”

Every one of us is surrounded by voices from all directions and every perspective. Those we know and who love us join with those who seek only to keep us in a place of their choosing adding to the noise advising us about they think we should and should not do. This noisy environment of contemporary life is even promoted as reliable guidance for one who seeks to be relevant and well-networked.

It’s therefore no surprise that any of us when making a decision might struggle to separate the noise and clamour of others’ opinions from the voice of God in the depth of our own hearts.

Good discernment is therefore not a matter of hearing all the voices then weighing up the pros and cons. Such a method will probably achieve nothing more than ensuring that we keep the majority happy while compromising the treasure of our personal integrity.

Instead a decision to not simply hear but to actively listen, paying attention to “the father’s instruction,” is the recipe for true understanding and the pathway to personal integrity.

And the one who truly understands and follows this inner voice of God is the one finds the fullness of life both today and for eternity.

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