There is a deep Truth that underlies all of reality. Finding God in all things is not just about surface-level seeking but knowing the Presence beneath the surface, the real reality. Most of us let life happen to us and when we’re disturbed by our reality we quickly and instinctively react. Our call is for action and change and productivity. We rarely stop and listen. Really listen.
Contemporary mystic and author Carl McColman recently wrote about the response to the Las Vegas shooting. A couple democrats in congress chose to not participate in a moment of silence for the victims. “Thoughts and prayers,” they argued, were an excuse not to act. But McColman says, “We […] live in a culture where we have rejected silence. We no longer listen to one another.” I would add that we don’t often listen to ourselves, either. We never enter into what Teresa of Ávila would call the interior castle. So what ends up happening is that any action we do take originates from a place of unawareness, of non-listening. When we don’t deeply listen, we don’t fully act from the place of Truth, that is, reality.
Reading the Signs of the Times
Many are quick to call certain actions “prophetic”. Stop the silence and prayer and get moving! Yet our tradition—and certainly the Ignatian tradition—calls us to be contemplatives in action. This way of proceeding does not allow action without, first, a pause. McColman says, “I don’t think anyone is going to be very creative here, if they are not willing to be silent. And listen. And be silent some more. And wonder. And reflect. And pray, if that’s how you roll. Or meditate. Or contemplate. Or be mindful.” A prophet cannot be prophetic without listening for the Truth. Call it prophetic listening.
Margaret Silf calls it “reading the signs of the times”. Listening is also about listening to what isn’t being said. She says,
Reading the ‘signs of the times’ is about extending this art [of listening] to the larger world around us. It is about getting in touch with the invisible currents under the immediate surface of society, and discerning, at this level, what is leading us towards a fuller humanity, and what is diminishing our human-ness. In each of us there is a potential mystic and a potential prophet. The mystic intuits what is really going on beneath the surface of things, notices the divine amid the ordinary, and sees others with God’s eyes. The prophet addresses what the mystic sees, challenging all that is threatening to undermine humanity’s journey towards life-in-all-its-fullness, and encouraging all that is nourishing and empowering that journey.
(Margaret Silf, Companions of Christ: Ignatian Spirituality for Everyday Living)
The Truth of Reality
A prophet speaks Truth. When we prophetically listen we channel the attentive listening of the mystic and listen for the Truth the underlies everything. Instead of taking sides and platforms and stances, let us listen to all the voices, all that goes unspoken, all that is felt and real. I believe much of our world’s problems—which are often exacerbated by those in power—come from a lack of listening to the reality. What is the reality of violence in people’s lives? What is the reality of those who struggle to find an income or struggle to be loved or struggle with mental illness? Vatican II even used the phrase “signs of the times” and our need to interpret them. Even our church needs to prophetically listen. When we don’t let ourselves prophetically listen, then we start making up false narratives about the world and about other people’s situations.
As Silf says, we must “intuit what is really going on beneath the surface of things” and then we must prophetically challenge and take action. We must see with God’s eyes, as Ignatian spirituality calls us to do. We must listen with God’s ears. Only then can we be illuminated to the Truth of the love and healing that lurks beneath the surface.
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