Already the acronym “R-E-S-O-L-V-E-D” has given us much to ponder regarding New Year Resolutions and the spiritual life. We have discovered that a recommitment to Jesus Christ coupled with a daily examination of conscience, fortified by surrender and obedience ,does much to lead us on the path to holiness.
Today, we will find out that the L and the V in the acronym lead us a few steps closer to our goal.LISTENING
Someone once said that God gave us one mouth and two ears – and this indicates to us what is most important. Indeed, in the spiritual life, the two ears are most important. But not the ears attached to either side of our head. Rather the “ears” of our heart wherein we “hear” the voice of God.
Remember what God revealed to the prophet Elijah about the way in which He speaks to us: “Then the LORD said, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD–but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake–but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire–but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave” (1 Kings 19: 11-13).
The voice of God was heard in the quiet “whisper,” not in the tumult and confusion – as St. Francis de Sales puts it, we hear the voice of God “way down deep in the bottom of our heart.” And it is through this still, small voice that we discover God’s will and direction for us, the revelation of the mystery to which He invites us, and the unconditional and never failing love that He has for us.
Therefore, key to our growth in the spiritual life is Listening to God. How, then, do we develop our “spiritual ears?” First, we listen for God’s voice in our time of prayer. As we humbly sit before the Lord, our hearts and minds may be filled with thoughts, ideas, or intimations. When these thoughts are in conformity to Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church, then the “voice” we are hearing is most likely God’s.
Remember that God uses all of the faculties of the human person to express Himself to us. He uses our imagination, our intellect, our emotions, and our desire so as to make His word known. During prayer – whether it be Lectio-Divina, the Rosary, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, or any other devotional or prayer – our attitude of heart must be one of listening, and our interior condition one of receptivity so that we may “hear” all God has in mind for us.
Yet another way we hear the word of God is through others. Spouses, spiritual directors, pastors, provincials, superiors are all used by God to make His will known. For this reason, we should choose our “holy advisors” with prudence and wisdom. They should be men and women known for their conformity to the teachings of the Church; they should individuals who are more advanced than we on the spiritual journey; they should be men and women whose own lives testify to prayer and truth. Though not perfect, our holy advisors should be engaged in a dynamic pursuit of holiness and the life of faith.
Submitting to good counsel keeps us humble and obedient to the will of God. It prevents us from moving in wrong directions. It helps us attain a docility of heart, a “teachableness,” which encourages our spiritual growth and maturation. And it helps us move forward to the next resolution that helps us on our holy way – a practice of the Virtues.
St. Teresa of Avila once said the best way to progress in the spiritual life is to practice Virtue. Virtues are broken into two main categories — the theological virtues and the moral virtues.
The theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are given to us in our baptism. They are called theological virtues because they direct us toward God and enable us to come into direct spiritual contact with Him. As we practice the theological virtues we grow in knowledge of God, trust in God, and love of God.
The moral virtues relate to our daily life and tend toward our neighbor. They are justice, temperance, fortitude, and prudence. Justice demands that we give each human person the right and honorable respect that he is due as a child of God. Temperance is moderation and control of our own desires and physical pleasures. Fortitude is a strength of soul which leads to patient endurance in times of trial or persecution. And prudence is that virtue which enables us to judge what is morally right under given circumstances.
Virtue is the antidote for vice. When we choose to practice the virtues, we effectively combat sin and weakness, despair and presumption. In addition, we grow in character and moral strength. C. S. Lewis states, “Virtue — even attempted virtue — brings light; indulgence brings fog.”
A sincere practice of the virtues involves a determination to choose for God in the midst of every circumstance and situation. It requires we lay our desire for human respect at the altar of righteousness. It binds us to speak the truth at all times though to speak it with love. It encourages us to put aside our own wants and desires, perhaps our natural inclinations and tendencies, and to choose instead the higher road. It calls us to the summit of Christian living – a life lived for love of God and not for love of self. Sanctity, true sanctity, is evidenced by virtue.