to listen

Apr 8, 2020

“The Lord has given me
a disciple’s tongue.
So that I may know how to reply to the wearied
he provides me with speech.
Each morning he wakes me to hear,
to listen like a disciple.
The Lord has opened my ear.”
Isaiah 50:4-9

In these posts I usually prefer to reflect on the gospel reading of the day since it is in the gospels that we most directly encounter Jesus. However today’s beautiful passage from Isaiah helps us to approach the gospels with open ears and hearts, to listen like disciples.

Note the close connection between listening and speaking. The one who doesn’t listen, has nothing of value to say.

Listening does not mean simply repeating every word that every other person speaks. Instead the one who is able to listen like a disciple, is able to sort the words that are spoken, receiving some, discarding others and ignoring others.

This is the discernment of voices that happens in prayer.

Note that the disciple is the one who listens, and the disciple is before all else one who follows.

This relationship of disciple and teacher is the heart of healthy human existence. If we don’t follow then we are vulnerable to every sound, and buffeted in every direction by every wind.

Some encouragement from Thomas Merton:

The disciple is one who desires to follow Jesus and will listen for his voice.
Silence need not render us voiceless.
Isolation need not stir us to loneliness.
Time spent in retreat can be wielded as if a saber, parrying against the the ravages and blows absorbed with every step.
Sometimes, we can only move forward after we’ve first gotten lost in that stillness.
And sometimes, the space between the noise cries out to us the loudest.
Take some time this day to listen.
Listen for the silence.
Then stand within that space.
For often, it is only within that silence that we can truly hear.

An invitation:

  • Read again these opening verses of today’s first reading, then set time to listen for the voice of Jesus in today’s gospel reading, either praying on your own with the scripture at this link, or relaxing for 20 minutes using the podcast reflection below.


  1. Judas’s question, what will you give me? To the chief Priests seems incongruous. He had already been given all that he needed in Jesus, the Christ but couldn’t see it!

    My prayer is that during this time of isolation, when our world is now our home, family and neighbourhood. We will see the richness of what we have without looking for more.

    Thank you again Father John, your reflections are a treasure.

  2. Thank you Fr John

  3. Thank you Father, you give us much to listen to in this time of isolation and silence.

    It has been said that those who are easily led are not easy to follow. How fortunate are we as Christians, to be led by one who is so uncompromisingly just, courageous and good. He, who is easy to follow.

    Psalm 45
    3 Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One,
    With Your glory and Your majesty.
    4 And in Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness; And Your right hand shall teach You awesome things.

  4. Thank you Fr John. Every morning there is a reason to be thankful for , a reason to be in solidarity with the faith filled companions in prayer near and far in our solitary. This morning in silence I listen and I hear in a way that I am grateful for .

  5. Thanks Father John -silence is indeed a very powerful form of communication.

  6. Thank you for reminding me we have two ears and one mouth and that this indicates the ratio to which they should be used. I look forward to the challenge to “Listen like a disciple, sort the words that are spoken, receiving some, discarding others and ignoring others”

  7. Amen thank you Father God Amen

  8. Great reflection John, I add this: my world (home, family, job, ecc) it’s the same every day, and it is similar to everyone’s in the world.
    So it’s easy recognize when I am like a disceple and when I’m not. Thanks for your company


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