There are things in the heart of all of us that want to be expressed. Hopes. Dreams. Pain. Struggles.
But our world does not always encourage intimacy and honesty. Our world, all too often, covers up the profound landscape of the human heart.
The first retreat I did on Deep Listening was guided by a priest who called us to tune into the journey of each person present. He explained that to do that we need to let go of our judgments and fears, and enter into the reality and gift of each person.
I was shocked by the results. These complete strangers opened up before my eyes. They became like brothers and sisters I had never met before. My heart blossomed into the realm of authentic compassion.
All the world needs to learn the art of true listening. It needs to learn the art of leaving our self-centred world and entering into the world of others. The experience of deep listening had opened a door within me.
Over and over the Scriptures call us to listen. They call us to listen to God and listen to others. They call us to let down our walls and grow in compassion, vulnerability and intimacy.
One key Scripture in the book of Genesis says of our first parents, "They hid themselves from the presence of God." We don't want to see the truth, so we hide behind our "fig leafs" and deny reality.
How sad! How sad that so many people go through life with few opportunities to be real, vulnerable and completely honest.
'I shall be innocent and blameless of great transgression.'
My own years in ministry have affirmed again and again that when there is no one to listen, the human heart seems to shrivel up. When we are free to share honestly and openly, we expand and grow.
One key to renewing the Church is for clergy, laity, young and old to listen with open and honest hearts.
The other day my young son caught a caterpillar. You would have thought that little creature was a treasure beyond compare. His enthusiasm was total and without pretence.
In that moment, I had to enter into the world of my son and try to see the caterpillar through his eyes. His and my joy and enthusiasm became one. Only when we become like children can we see the glory and splendour that surround us.
Catherine Doherty, the foundress of Madonna House, wrote this prayer: "Lord, give me the heart of a child, and the awesome courage to live it out."
Each of us is called to listen. To listen and hear the deep heart God has placed in us all. To respond to the call to be vulnerable. To listen to Jesus and develop an intimate, loving relationship with him.
Even if we feel nobody can truly understand us, Jesus understands. He understands our most difficult and painful experiences. He understands our joy and sorrow. He understands our deep heart and he is always willing to meet us there.
Listen . . . and then hear a call that is deeper than words. A call to be a child once again. A call to be free. A call to love. A call to grow in compassion.
The heart of Jesus is big and wide enough to encompass all the experiences of life. He loves us in each moment. There is nothing we need to hide from his compassion and mercy.
Catholics have a great gift in the sacrament of Reconciliation. There, we can meet Jesus and be entirely honest.
What a treasure! What a blessing! This is a great place to begin. But the path of listening, openness and honesty never ends.
Learn to be honest and compassionate. Heed the words of Blessed John Paul II who said, "It is invaluable to converse with Christ and, leaning against Jesus' breast like his beloved disciple, we can feel the infinite love of his heart."
Lord, teach us to listen to the call of love. Teach us to be child-like, open and honest. Let us experience the infinite love of your heart so we may share it with all.