This is the fourth week of the online Lenten Retreat, “Praying with Illness” I am leading for those with chronic illness and their caregivers – through Always We Begin Again (AWBA) www.myawba.org This week in addition to praying with Psalm 23 through the prayer form of Lectio Divina, the participants have been invited to begin using the prayer form The Examen. In a nutshell, The Examen is a deep listening and noticing of the consolations and desolation’s experienced in ones day, week, year and life. This is a listening and noticing through the eyes and ears of love. What follows is a reflection that I shared with the participants this week about listening with the ear of your heart.
One of my favorite images is of St. Benedict, cupping his ear as a reminder to listen with the ear of your heart. Listening with the ear of our heart also reminds me of one of the resurrections stores told in the ?Gospel of Luke, on the Road to Emmaus. Two disciples were returning to Emmaus after the crucifixion and were met by a “stranger” who in actuality was the risen Christ. Jesus questions them about why they are so downcast, and they were amazed that he could not know of the terrible things that had taken place in Jerusalem. Jesus responds by saying, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26 NRSV) He then interpreted the scriptures to them. After the two disciples invited the “stranger” in for a meal, as it was getting late; Jesus made himself known in the breaking of the bread. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32 NRSV)
Luke’s description of the physical sensation that the disciples experienced is important. Their hearts were burning within them – they were listening with the ear of their heart. I have always considered this “burning within them” as a deeper awareness, an inner knowing that was being released. It is not a burning that comes with pain of fire, but a burning with desire, hope and longing; a burning that comes from deep within, revealing the essence of God’s love deeply rooted in each one of us.
Listening with the ear of our heat is a listening to the stirrings within that are of God. Listening with the ear of our heart is seeing our whole being through the eyes of love; where we can hear God say to us from the beginning of creation, when God looked upon the man and woman – upon you and me – “And it is VERY good.” Genesis 1:31 NRSV emphasis added) Listening with the ear of our heart is tapping into an inner depth that claims the truth of being created in the image of God; in the image of love. Listening with the ear of our heart is remembering that our bodies are sacred temples that contain the very essence of God deep within. Jesus came to help humanity listen with the ear of our hearts, to help us reclaim that deep essence of God within us that too often gets covered up. Jesus came that our hearts might burn once again, that we might live in freedom and hope.
Living with chronic illness can sometimes make it very difficult to see our bodies as sacred, much less as containing the very essence of God. There are times that we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1 NRSV) When Jesus cried out these words from the cross, he was met with silence, but not absence and through the silence came the resurrection. I think there are many times we are met with silence, but not absence. Within that silence is the invitation to listen deeper, to listen with the ears of our heart. And less we forget when Jesus was met with resurrection, the scars were still there – but he was whole.
As continue through Lent, praying with illness – we are invited to listen with the ear of our heat. We are invited to listen deeply when there is silence and claim the very essence o God’s image, of God’s love within us. We are invited to see and know that we are whole, despite the scars and wounds and limitations that come with chronic illness. Praying with illness is an invitation to not define our identity by that illness or diagnosis. This is not denial of the very real struggles and pain that we lie with, but is bringing that pain and struggle into the silence, into the resurrection, into new life – and we can rest by the still waters and claim that, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.” (Psalm 23:6 NRSV) This is a promise for the living, for the here and now – in the midst of our challenges and pain.
Let us listen with the ear of our heart as we reflect the image of God’s love…
As always, I am holding you in the healing light of God’s love