THE SCHOOL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: PARTNERSHIP WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: LISTENING
Rev. Fr. John-Mary Benedict Ntol Atep
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears,… – Jesus Christ (John 16:12ff).
Before Ascension Thursday, it would be wise for us to quickly pay attention to the very important topic of listening. Listening is not just a skill as it is understood in some academic settings but strictly speaking, listening in the school of the Holy Spirit is a summation of the seven wonderful gifts of the Holy Spirit. Listening is an agency if you like where the seven gifts (Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord – Isa. 11:2-3) of the Holy Spirit without mixture or confusion, are harnessed to get a message (s) concerning the will of God. Listening is not so much about hearing. Hearing is a physiological act. Listening is about the special ear of the heart as the ancient philosopher Epictetus understood the importance of good listening when he amusingly said: “we have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Therefore, Scripture says, “Remember this, my dear friends! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak” (James 1:19).
We must quickly state that listening to the Holy Spirit is not also about feelings and emotions but about facts and truths; “the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth (John 16:13). The facts and truths are fuelled in us to listen to the Holy Spirit through our special ear of the heart called “Faith ear.” The faith ear draws messages from our educated conscience, the Word of God, the Sacred Traditions of the Church and the Magisterium (teaching office of the Church). Through the faith ear the Spirit inspires, directs, suggests and illumines.
It is very easy for us to talk and listen less or not at all. There are defined reasons that makes listening to the Holy Spirit to be very difficult or not possible at all. It begins with the question of who is the Holy Spirit to you? Most times we get stuck to the descriptive images of the Holy Spirit such as the symbols and never get in touch with the Holy Spirit Himself. For us to listen to the Holy Spirit, we need to understand Him as GOD, A PERSON and A FRIEND. We can connect with a person and friend but not a thing. Therefore, as we listen to the Holy Spirit, who is God, a Person and a Friend, remember that He has a will and a personality. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord” (Isa. 55:8). To listen is not only to welcome the Holy Spirit through mere thoughts, desires, prayers, liturgy and renewal of covenantal relationship with Him, but to allow Him to take absolute control of our wills. Most times it is said that the Holy Spirit can be resident in us without being president.
- From our previous reflections, identify how the Holy Spirit speaks to you as a person and His friend
- How often do you listen to the Holy Spirit?
- What are the main obstacles that hinder you from listening to the Holy Spirit? Or what is holding or blocking you from listening to the Holy Spirit?
- In order to cultivate the gift and virtue of listening to the Holy Spirit, we need to do thorough inner work by processing hurts, or wounds of the souls and/or strong emotions that have become the directors of our interior life. Matt. 15:19-20 (Read, reflect and discuss the outcome with your spiritual director).
Prayer: Holy Spirit, Lord of life, through the intercession of your spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary, please help us to eradicate all barriers that are limiting us from listening to you: prideful self-reliance, worldliness, the desires for others’ approval, faithlessness, prayerlessness, and unconfessed sins. Amen.