By Dorothy Stoner, OSB
“If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart.” This refrain keeps going through my mind as I reflect on the readings and on the meaning of this day. It would make a good mantra to weave through the various scenes of our Passion Sunday Story.
We hear that Jesus was obedient. To obey, we recall, means to listen. Jesus listened. “Listen,” St. Benedict tells us, “with the ear of your heart.” (Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue 1). Jesus listened with the ear of his heart. Isn’t that what this day is all about? How are we to listen well enough, deeply enough, faithfully enough that we can hear the voice of God, and respond? And what will happen if we do?
The prophet listened each morning; that servant’s ears were open morning after morning, and s/he heard what to say to the weary. Have you ever noticed when you become totally attentive to someone or some situation, when you’re totally present to what’s happening around you and to the person you’re with, you know how to respond and what to say. If we wake each morning and allow our ears to be open we will hear what needs to be done around us: which injustices need to be righted, which systems need to be confronted, which idols need to be smashed. If we listen with the ear of our heart we will know who needs to be welcomed in, who needs to be embraced, who needs to be invited to the table. What will it cost? It will cost you time, energy, security, your reputation. It may even cost your life.
The woman with the alabaster jar was obedient. She listened with the ear of her heart. She knew that more was happening around her than a simple dinner party. This woman responded to a reality that was so clearly before them, yet all the others refused to acknowledge. This man, Jesus, was about to be executed. The woman refused to give credence to the denial that enveloped them, and so she anointed him. She knew that this Jesus poured out his life so that others might have life, and so she anointed him with the best. What if we were as responsive to the truth as she was? What if we refused to cooperate with the “virtual realities” that are being constructed all around us? What if we listened with our whole being and responded?
Judas Iscariot couldn’t listen with the ear of his heart and so he could not be obedient. Some say Judas, a Zealot, was disappointed that Jesus, such a charismatic leader, did not join the Zealots in their armed struggle for independence so he thought he could prod Jesus on a bit. Who knows? But clearly Judas was too distracted, too involved in his own plans, to hear the voice. Judas knew what needed to happen, how could he listen? How could he obey the call of God when all he could hear was his own voice? What did Judas’ choice cost him? It cost him his life.
Peter, try as he might, often was not obedient. There were times when he just couldn’t listen. Today, Peter is too frightened. He wants to be faithful; he tries to be present’ he wants to be attentive, but the fear is too great. He does what seems to be necessary to protect himself: he lies. He does, however, hear something; he can hear the cock crow. Then Peter weeps. How many times have we been too afraid to be obedient to the voice of God? How many times have we needed to block out the sounds, to just play along the edges of life, and to even lie? Then the cock crows and we, too, weep. We then get up, determined to try again, and this time to do better.
Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome were obedient. These women risked their own reputations to follow Jesus when he was in Galilee and to minister to him. These women heard a call that they chose to follow; they heard a truth to which they responded. They listened and they were obedient. Once again they heard a cry and responded. They followed; they watched; they waited.
Can we do the same? As we enter Holy Week we are reminded once again that God invites us to listen and to respond. The promise is that we will “know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning God [will] open [our] ears that [we] may hear.” (Isaiah 50:4). What will it cost? It will cost us time, energy, security, our reputation. It may even cost our lives.
Are you ready?
This reflection was written by Dorothy Stoner, OSB in the reflection booklet, The Sabbath-Year Journey Through Lent 2000: A Convent of Listening. This year’s reflection booklet is by Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Colleen Kelly, From Ashes to Resurrection, Dust to New Life, and is available as a download for purchase from the Pax Christi USA website. For more reflections and resources for Lent 2012, click here.