A friend of mine used to play this game with me. She would ask, “My aunt Annie died last night, did she die?” I would reply, “No.” Wrong. She asks again, “Listen, my aunt Annie died last night, did she die?” And I would reply, “Yes!” Wrong again. Once more she asks, “Listen, my aunt Annie died last night, did she die?” This time I said, “No”. Right!
It took me some time to figure out the right answer. Apparently, if the question starts with “Listen”, then aunt Annie did not die.
The simple message of this game is this: to listen is to be alive. If we are not listening, we are dead. When we listen well, we make the speaker come alive. In a lively and interesting conversation between good friends, there is a mutual exchange of words, thoughts and affections. This discourse is transformative when we allow each other’s message to touch our hearts and move our minds. We transform each other when we listen to a person’s words and meaning which point to a deeper reality. Similarly, to be alive is to listen profoundly and intentionally to God’s revelation and announcement: “You are my Son, the Beloved One, my favour rests on you.” (Lk 3:22).
“You are my Son, the Beloved One, my favour rests on you.” (Lk 3:22).
Our life with God is, in effect, a call to be actively in communion with him and to be in constant communication, even in silence, which is the most profound way of listening to God. To listen to God’s voice, we need silence in our prayers. When we pray in silence, we live out our faith and put into practice the love and mercy of God in our lives.
Indeed, the voice of God is heard in a constant refrain that echoes in the wind when we stand in solitude on the mountain top to hear God whispering in our ears: “You are my Son, the Beloved One, my favour rests on you.”
We stand in awe and wonder to rejoice in these words which simply say: “God loves me.” It’s so easy to feel miserable and unloved and misunderstood. But when we know in the depths of our hearts that we are loved by God — that is enough for us to overcome all the disappointments and disillusionment in life.
It is on this divine mountain in our hearts, that we encounter Jesus in the luminosity of his transfiguration. Like Peter, we realise “how good it is for us to be here”. In our humility, before the divine light, we sense our unworthiness, and become aware of our own faults and vulnerabilities. We learn not to judge others, but to accept them in all their limitations and weaknesses.
Interestingly, Jesus did not worry if others had mistaken him to be Moses or Elijah. He stood his own ground in maintaining his own self-worth and identity, even when Peter had misunderstood him. He did not reprimand him or put him down for his error in judgement or inappropriate remarks. Jesus was able to listen to his inner voice — to his true self that emerges from the centre of his being and confirms his origin and favour with his Father.
It is from this interior conviction that he draws life from the spring of silence, like water gushing out from the mountain side, to affirm his identity, mission and self-worth.
This is the meaning of our baptism — that we may hear the melody of love singing constantly in our ears and heart, “You are my son or daughter, my favour rests on you”. By our own baptism, we too have been configured and conferred with a dignity and identity that befit us as children of God. Once in a while, we must perk up our ears when we feel weary; to listen to the silent music, enter into the cloud of divine silence and sit still to experience Heaven on earth.
FR COLIN TAN, SJ