Jesus, as He usually does, expresses such a wonderful thought in a succinct fashion - Blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it. He focuses on blessings, on positives. No damnation and hellfire here, just why good things happen to good people. Is this hearing and keeping hard stuff to do?
We all are able to hear God's word, but we don't always truly hear for a number of reasons. Some of us expect that God will come to us in a roar of power, simply because He can, and so when He doesn't, we don't hear what He says. Some of us don't pay attention or listen very carefully, and so we start talking about how we are going to keep (or how great a job we do of keeping) God's word before He finishes talking to us, before we really know what He is saying. Some of us are talking so loudly about ourselves and what is important to us that we can't possibly hear what God, or anyone else for that matter, is saying. Some of us don't even care to try to listen.
The thing about hearing God's word is that it isn't rocket science. It isn't head challenging. God will talk with us so we can understand. Hearing God's word is heart challenging. It requires heart-felt effort. We have to slow down. We have to calm ourselves. We have to open ourselves so we can hear with our hearts, not with our ears or heads. It is hard to slow down, to ignore the busy-nesses of our lives. But the fact that you are taking time to read this little reflection, and that I am taking time to write it, is a small sense of slowness, of listening, of hearing God's word.
I sometimes get frustrated that I don't (seem to) have time everyday to pray and reflect the way I do when I am on retreat. But then I remind myself that God doesn't just talk with me on retreat, He talks with me and tells me His word everyday, in so many ways. He tells me His word in the look of anticipation, frustration, enlightenment on my students' faces. I hear His calming word when I am tempted to get angry with the person who cuts me off in traffic. I hear Him speak with joy in His creation when I bask in the warmth of my wife's smile. I hear Him loudly lament about tiny babies who are crushed from life moments before their birth, and I hear Him softly call to me from the depths of my own self-created despair when I unwittingly turn my back on Him.
And Jesus reminds us that the blessings are not just for those that hear, but for those who keep the word. Keep it by practicing what we hear, by renewing ourselves, by living the word. This is such a personal call, a personal message. I can tell you what I believe, and how I think this word affects my life, and how I keep it (or as happens to us all, how I have failed to keep it so many times in my life). But only you can hear God's word for you, and only you can keep God's word for you.
Have YOU heard the word of God? Do YOU keep it?
Have you HEARD the word of God? Do you KEEP it?
Have you heard the WORD of God? HOW do you keep it?
By Tom Purcell