by Father Mark Goldasich
It’s said that the three rules of real estate are: location, location, location. Wanna guess the three rules of the Christian life?
According to Father Richard Goodin, OFM, they are: listen, listen, listen. Notice that he didn’t say: yak, yak, yak. He goes on to point out that Christians are called to be disciples and “the disciple is a follower, and for that, listening is essential.”
Listen, then, to the following story:
In the days of the telegraph, a young man applied for a job as a Morse code operator. Answering a newspaper ad, he entered a large, noisy office. In the background, a telegraph clacked away. A sign instructed job applicants to fill out a form and wait to be summoned into an inner office.
The young man sat down with seven other applicants, but soon jumped up and dashed across the room into the inner office. The other applicants stopped chatting to one another and perked up, wondering what was going on.
A few minutes later, the young man emerged from the inner office escorted by the interviewer, who announced to the other applicants, “Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming, but the job has been filled by this young man.”
One of the applicants objected, “Hey, wait a minute! I don’t understand. He was the last one to come in, and the rest of us never even got a chance to be interviewed. That’s not fair!”
The employer said, “I’m sorry, but all the time that you’ve been sitting here chatting with one another, the telegraph has been ticking out the following message in Morse code: ‘If you understand this message, then come right in. The job is yours.’ None of you heard it or understood it. This young man did. So the job is his.” (Adapted from “1001 Illustrations that Connect,” by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, eds.)
Take a moment to call to mind how you usually pray. Usually, after a sign of the cross to sign in, we dive right in with a list of our needs, or with saying the rosary or some other devotional prayers. We fill our prayer time talking to God and then make another sign of the cross to sign off before going on with our lives. But prayer is meant to be a conversation with God — a dialogue. Do we ever give God a chance to speak to us by being quiet? By listening? Someone once said that we’re called to listen twice as much as we speak; that’s why God gave us two ears, but just one mouth!
That applies to prayer as well. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with spoken words in prayer. But do we ever spend twice as long listening to God as we do talking? Because we live in a such a noisy, busy world, making time for silence and quiet is challenging, yet essential — not only for our mental and physical health, but for our spiritual health as well.
So, what does the voice of God sound like? Well, it could be a passage in a book; a phrase from the Scriptures; an inspirational homily; a song on the radio or a piece of music; a movie or theater production; a beautiful sunset or sunrise; an arresting piece of art or sculpture; comforting words from a friend; or simply the sound of silence.
The next time you come to pray in this season of Easter, start with a sign of the cross and then just sit quietly for a while. Put your finger over your lips if you need to, to remind yourself to give God a chance to talk. Pray simply for the gift of a listening heart, one that hears the constant message of love and new life being telegraphed by our risen Lord.