I was five and we were vacationing on Lantau island. Today an airport crowns the Hong Kong mountain. Back then, it hosted scores of families seeking respite from the summer heat. The tiny cabins were separated from the main peak, where we took meals at a common dining room, by a “saddle”: a flat, grassy strip of land with steep slopes falling away to either side.
Normally, my brothers and I would run and play across the saddle, daring each other to get too close to the edge. But this particular day, a thick fog met us as we headed back from dinner. I stood still, isolated by the eerie whiteness, unable to see even my feet.
“Sarah!” My Dad’s voice reached me as his hand appeared, groping for mine. “Get down on your belly and hold my foot.” We half crawled, half snaked our way across the saddle in a human chain.
What I remember most was how having lost the use of my eyes, my ears strained for every sound. I could hear my brothers making their way behind me, my mother taking up the rear. Her words of encouragement and Dad’s quiet directions were as good as a path across that perilous strip. But I had to listen for all I was worth.
Listening at the Transfiguration
I can’t help remembering this as I read Luke’s account of the Transfiguration (9:28-36). Jesus takes Peter, John, and James up on a mountain to pray. Moses and Elijah appear and speak with him, and then as Peter tries to get them to stay, a cloud covers them all. “They were afraid as they entered the cloud,” verse 34 says. I can relate! “Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’” (vs. 35).
Listen to him! LISTEN. They would be straining their ears and all their attention in his direction. That word is for us, too. We need to listen for that “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) so we can follow.
Today we cannot see the invisible God but we can hear … and he still speaks.
What keeps us from truly listening?
• Without the fog that long-ago day, I might have run off with my brothers, chased a frog or hunted for snails … anything but listen to my parents until I had to.
—Are you ever tempted to go your own way, only paying attention to God if you’re in trouble?
• Peter, John, and James were distracted by Moses and Elijah until the cloud hid them from view.
—Are you ever tempted to follow other people (even good people), to hang on their words at the expense of listening to the Lord?
• In contrast, those same disciples “fell silent” when they were left alone with the Lord.
—Are you ever distracted by other noise in your life, from listening to Jesus? What will it take to find silence?
“Listen to him!”
The Lord speaks to us in Scripture, whether we hear it proclaimed at Mass or are reading in the privacy of our homes or are meditating on what we have learned. He speaks through events, he speaks through wise counselors. He speaks into our hearts as we pray.
How can you be truly present in order to hear? Pray and ask the Lord what you need to do to become a better hearer and doer of the Word.
Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
Remember [God’s] life-giving words … and make them yours – so you can be a sentinel, showing signs to others, lighting their way.
—Pope Francis homily at the Easter Vigil, 3/26/2016.
Become a person of the Word!
© 2019 Sarah Christmyer
You might also like:
• God Wants to Speak to You: How to Hear Him
• Not by Bread Alone: How to Live by the Word of God
• Read the Bible Like A Disciple
• Build a Bible Reading Habit (3 “Ps” to Get You Started)