Blue spring flowers on the Cathedral grounds
“The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens—wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.” —Isaiah 50:4

Today’s reading from Isaiah is particularly touching for me during this season of Lent. So much of these 40 days are about self-reflection, and fundamental to that is the concept of listening: both listening to yourself and listening to others. In my experience, it seems listening has become a lost skill in a world focused very much on self-promotion and marketing what we are, or more frequently, of what we think we are. Lent provides us with a prompt to listen and learn, to “listen as those who are taught.”

Many might consider listening to be a passive activity, and the widespread urgency placed on the act of talking, over listening, suggests an established social preference for more deliberate and active engagement. However, anyone who is an introvert (as I am) will know there has been extensive research recently into the power of silence, the power of listening, and the fact that listening itself can also be active in many ways.

While I am heartened by this excerpt from today’s reading, and find it stirring and fitting for Lent, I do feel that it is relevant throughout the year, and in a multitude of contexts—not simply during this season of dedicated reflection. For me, the passage suggests that the art of listening is something that we must work on and develop as time progresses. The text identifies that “morning by morning he…wakens my ear.” This is not an overnight “miracle” where suddenly listening is no longer required as we have been taught all there is to know. Listening is a skill which requires effort and thought, and which takes time to mature.

As time passes throughout the year, but especially during this season of Lent, I find myself working to listen: to be one who is taught by my life, my experiences, and my faith. I strive to remain open to new ideas, new thoughts, new concepts, but also to perceive what has passed before, what is currently around me, and especially what I may have missed; missed because perhaps I wasn’t listening.