It is a truly a blessing to be able to learn from one’s mistakes. There was one week in particular that I learned one of the more valuable lessons of my life. I learned to listen. The first part of that week involved a conversation with a friend who had recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan. As he explained his struggles and what he was going through, I did the one thing a person should never do. I rushed to the rescue with information and theories. As I reflected upon the conversation, I realized that my friend didn’t need me to give him words of wisdom. He needed someone to listen to him. A couple of days later, the same thing happened again. A friend opened up to me and was telling me about something incredibly difficult. Again, I repeated my mistake. Then a few days later, I had a third conversation in which I had finally learned my lesson. I was meeting with a student who was looking for guidance. Instead of offering solutions and ideas, I patiently listened to what the student had to say. Both of us walked away from the conversation refreshed and joyful, and I had finally understood the power of listening.
In the first reading, Moses teaches the people of Israel to remember their father Abraham. One of the main characteristics of Abraham is that he was willing to listen to God. In the reading from Deuteronomy, Moses states, “Then you shall declare before the Lord, your God, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as an alien. But there he became a nation great, strong, and numerous.” The wandering Aramean is Abraham, and the reason he became a wanderer was because he was called to leave his country by God. He listened to that calling and so became the Father of a great nation.
In today’s Gospel, we see that Jesus is the perfect example of how we are called to listen to the Holy Spirit. Jesus is led into the desert by the Holy Spirit. The Gospel proclaims, “Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil.” Like Abraham, Jesus is led by God. But there is more. We must keep in mind that in his person Jesus Christ reveals two things. First, he reveals who God is. Secondly, he reveals what it means to be fully human. In today’s Gospel, He shows us that listening is the key to human perfection, but also that God himself listens. Listening is not just human, but it is also divine.
Brothers, we are called to be like Christ and to listen to God speaking through the Holy Spirit. Each of us has an ongoing interior dialogue which shapes and colors our experience. This interior dialogue is composed of thoughts, feelings, and desires. Brothers, we are called to listen to how the Holy Spirit is speaking through that interior dialogue; to how God is moving our hearts towards him. By practicing discernment, we learn to listen to God and accept those aspects of that interior dialogue which come from God, and reject those thoughts, feelings, and desire which do not come from God. In this way, we become like Christ and we live a life guided by listening to the Holy Spirit.