Time to listen


27 Aug 2019

The value of meditation is that it allows you to slow down long enough to actually hear what God wants you to do.

As a geriatrician the bulk of my work involves assessing whether people are developing dementia. ‘I wish I knew how to give hope in the face of giving the dementia diagnosis. How can I apply Victor Frankl’s logotherapy to help patients and their carers find meaning in this affliction? How can I do this without crossing the medical boundaries into the spiritual realm? So, in my spare time, I like to venture into the spiritual arena, the part of us that gives meaning to sufferings, that not only survives but can transcend all ills, that does not get diseased and die.’

Recently, I was struck by a simple encounter. I went to an aged care home to see a patient who was extremely hard of hearing. Another resident, who I suspect had dementia, came into her room and said to her, ‘I love you.’ My patient replied, ‘I can’t hear you.’ It reminded me of how often God’s words, ‘I love you,’ fall on ears deafened by the constant noise around us.

Slow down

In 2014, I started a Christian meditation group in my parish. For the first two years, there were only four regular members. We hang on to Jesus’ words, ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.’ Over the past three years, sometimes we are up to a grand total of 10. In our fast-paced, digital age, meditation is an excellent way of helping us slow down, be still and silent to hear God’s voice. In the words of Karl Rahner, Jesuit priest and theologian, ‘The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all.’

I have been a member of Christian Life Community (CLC), a lay Ignatian community, since 1996. I became enamoured with Ignatian spirituality in 2016. Ignatian contemplation using our imagination helps us experience Jesus as risen and fully alive now. Another way of praying with Scripture is by Lectio Divina, established in the 6th century by Saint Benedict, and recommended to the public by the Second Vatican Council.

Reflection day

In 2016, with two CLC members’ help, I organised a parish reflection day based on these ways of praying with Scripture. In 2017 and 2018, we facilitated similar days at Campion retreat centre in Kew. We now have a Scripture reflection group in the parish.

These days our Church is like a boat caught in a storm. Sometimes, we may become frightened like Peter when he took his eyes off Jesus while walking on stormy seas. We have to keep our eyes focused on Jesus. We have to restore the credibility of the Church by living and keeping alive Jesus’ values.

To be with God

The word ‘volunteering’ conjures up the image of doing things for the good of others. Our life is a constant tug-of-war between being Martha and Mary, with Martha often winning in our productivity-oriented society. Sometimes I feel guilty about not doing things to directly help the marginalised. Instead, my call at present seems to be to encourage people in our frantic society to find time to be with God, to find a balance between being Martha and Mary.

Fr Andy Hamilton told CLC members recently that ‘Don’t just sit there, do something’ has to be balanced by ‘Don’t just do something, sit there.’

Meditation and Scripture reflection, as with all forms of prayer, enhance our wellbeing and improve the quality of our presence when we go out and do things. Sitting in silence enables us to hear God tell us, ‘I love you,’ and to hear what God wants us to do.

Useful websites

Christian meditation national website; international website.Christian Life Community website. If your parish is interested in Scripture reflection days, contact: susie@hiikhoo.com.au. A Scripture reflection day will be held on Sunday, 6 October at Campion Centre of Ignatian Spirituality, Kew, Vic, from 10am-3pm. See www.campion.asn.au/bookings to book or for more information.

This article first appeared in Madonna magazine Spring 2019 issue.

Susie Hii is a writer and author of Happy, Healthy, Holy.
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