In my youth, before I set out on my travels, I openly sought wisdom in prayer; before the Temple I asked for her and I will pursue her to the end of my days. While she blossomed like a ripening cluster, my heart was delighted in her; my feet followed the right path, because from my youth I searched for her. As soon as I began listening to her she was given to me, and with her, much instruction. With her help I made progress and I will glorify him who gives me wisdom, for I decided to put it into practice and ardently seek what is good. I shall not regret it. (Christian Community Bible)
We like to think of Lent as being a time of somber reflection and prayer. But in reality, I think that many of us find ourselves in a time of panic. Our liturgists and musicians are starting to panic as they strive to put the final touches on the services of Holy Week. As students and teachers, we find ourselves beginning to panic with the realization that we only have seven weeks left in the semester – And that brings a whole new level of panic – Will I be ready for comps? What should I do for the summer? What am I supposed to do with my life anyways?
Both Ben Sira and St. Benedict were great teachers who were highly sought after because of their wisdom. But they didn’t get there overnight. They both gradually came to understand that gaining real wisdom involves a combination of incessant prayer, the hard work of study, and listening.
While all three of these steps are important, it’s the step of listening that’s most easily dismissed. It’s obvious that we have to pray and study if we want to acquire the kind of wisdom that scripture talks about – but listening? I don’t have time for that! I’m too busy praying and studying!
The reason that we’re so eager to dismiss the act of listening in our pursuit of wisdom is because what we hear when we listen is completely out of our control. And that’s a scary thing! So we consciously (or unconsciously) fill our lives with so many things that we simply don’t have the time to listen.
When we live deadline to deadline with our assignments… do we really listen to what the material is saying to us? When we get so wrapped up in our own interests that we completely ignore the community around us… do we really listen to the person of Christ in others?
What do we hear from Ben Sira? “As soon as I began listening to her, wisdom was given to me…” What do we hear from St. Benedict as the first word of his rule? “Listen.” We might get close to finding wisdom by frantically searching high and low, but it’s in listening that wisdom is given to us.
When we truly begin to listen, we can hear what is being said – of course. But we can also pick up on the more subtle things – what is being left unsaid or only vaguely hinted at. And that holds true whether we’re listening to others, to ourselves or to God. And it’s these subtle things that are the difference between knowing facts in gaining wisdom.
If we want to be wise, we have to be attentive to the ear of our hearts. What we hear may challenge us or make us uneasy, but if we’re truly listening to what God is saying to us, we shall not regret it.