In the city where I live a Christian radio station has billboards placed around town which bear the message “God listens.” It is a brilliant word play because it humorously implies that God listens to their radio station while simultaneously expressing the reality that God listens to us. This short statement is an encouragement to enter into prayer, reminding us that God is always available and listens to everything we share with Him. It also implies that God does more than merely hear; He also acts. However, we must realize that God acts with His own wisdom and not according to ours. When we say God is in control (and He is!) we must realize that it does not mean He is a ‘puppet-master’ or that everything will go the way we prefer no matter how good our desires are; what it means is that in the end the ultimate victory will be His. And it means that if we remain faithful and steadfast, we will have a share in that victory. To find peace and hope in the midst of a confusing world, then, we need not look to that which is external. Rather, wisdom directs us to look within for God’s movements: God acts most powerfully within hearts that seek Him. Therefore we, too, must listen so that our hearts will be moved to action. We are His hands and feet in the world, so cultivating a listening heart through prayer is essential, especially when living in times and situations that make little sense to us. In listening we gain wisdom, but also we grow in love for God. Indeed, God listens and God does hear us in perfect wisdom accompanied by boundless mercy and love.
These last weeks in the liturgical year remind us that God’s wisdom is extended to us so that we can remain alert, prepared, and ready: during November the focus is on ‘end things,’ the month beginning with recognition of the saints and holy souls who have gone before us and ending with the Feast of Christ the King who will return victoriously at the end of time. A good example is the readings from the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, (two weeks prior to Christ the King), which were about the wisdom we need in order to be ready for when Christ returns. In the first reading we heard that wisdom is “readily perceived by those who love her and found by those who seek her.” (Wisdom 6:12) God wants us to be equipped with all the spiritual gifts we need to withstand the temptations, difficult events, and sufferings which come into our lives. Therefore, wisdom is available to all of us, not just a select few, that we may use the gift to navigate the pathway through life. The reading goes on to say that wisdom, (the Holy Spirit), wants to be made known to us; that is, God does not engage in spiritual ‘hide and seek,’ but makes a serious offering to enable us to be ready, attentive, discerning, comforted, strengthened, and active. The author says that we shall not be disappointed if we go out to meet wisdom; that is, if we seek wisdom in our prayer, we will find it. But the last line of the passage is the most revealing: “… because she [wisdom] … graciously appears to them in the ways, and meets them with all solicitude.” (Wisdom 6:12-16) Solicitude means “an attitude expressing excessive attentiveness.”* Therefore the writer is saying that wisdom seeks us with excessive attentiveness. That is: God listens, God hears, God offers, God empowers and He excessively desires that we receive.
The gospel for the 32nd Sunday was the parable of the 10 virgins, 5 wise and 5 foolish. The ones who were wise were the ones who had previously sought out wisdom and thus they were ready for the Bridegroom’s arrival. They were listening for God’s movements, allowing His excessive attentiveness to be cultivated within them through their prayer, empowering them to do the same. Therefore, they were alert to His arrival. But they were unable to share any of their oil with the other 5 virgins, not due to selfishness, but because one cannot impart God’s wisdom to another; only God can give His wisdom. Thus, when the foolish finally went off to seek it, they missed entrance into the wedding feast.
God is excessive in His attentiveness to us; we can seek the gift of His wisdom during our prayer and through our study of the Gospels knowing that God pays attention to our needs and desires. As we pray with Scripture we can observe what Jesus did, how He acted with mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and love that we might “go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37) If we pour out our hearts to the Lord knowing how attentive He is and listen attentively in response, we can find wisdom; and if are inspired by Him, we can in turn help others to find wisdom, too. Remember that since we remain imperfect ‘receptacles,’ having access to God’s wisdom does not mean our choices and understandings will be perfect. But the more we trust God, the more we will grow in acceptance of that which is beyond us, the more our hope will be inflamed against despair and discontent, and the more love will take up residence in our hearts. After all, wisdom is nothing less than God’s love embraced and shared.
May we seek God’s wisdom through prayer, study of Scripture, and the example of the holy ones! May we trust that God listens and that He is excessively attentive to us! May we learn to listen to God and to one another more attentively! May we grow in our preparation for Christ to return! And may our hearts be moved through wisdom to offer compassion, works of mercy and justice, peace, and love! Let us meet in the heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* Definition from Dictionary.com
1. My photo, Crater Lake, Oregon.
2. Painting, Evening, 1907 by Frederick Childe Hassam.
3. Russian icon, The Ten Virgins.
4. My photo, taken in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
5. Image, Jesus Listen and Pray by Fr. William Hart McNichols. If you are interested in obtaining a copy you can find this image at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/jesus-listen-and-pray-251-william-hart-mcnichols.html. I also recommend looking over Fr. Bill's works for Christmas card ideas. https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/william-hart-mcnichols
(Remember, I receive no remuneration for endorsing the work of Fr. Bill McNichols. But I do receive great joy in 'sharing the wealth' in the beauty of his work!)
NOTE: In compliance with GDPR rules, I wish to make it clear that I do not gather any information on any of my readers at any time.
Heart Speaks to Heart