Listen; lay it to heart

Reflection on Mass readings for Nov. 5 (Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time)


Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10

Psalms 131:1,2,3

1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13

Matthew 23:1-12


How do we really listen to another person? How do we, as the Scriptures say, “lay it to heart”? In the first reading this Sunday, the prophet Malachi says to the people, “Give glory to the name of the Lord.” How do we give glory to the name of the Lord? Perhaps by being still.

We live in a hyper-busy, noisy world. Our senses are bombarded on all sides. Even when our senses are not being stimulated from without, our inner thoughts can keep us busy – repeating conversations, rehearsing conversations, speaking to oneself.

Jesus, the Word, can barely get in a word. To hear him, we must first be still, completely still.




God, in his goodness, will communicate with us. He is always attentive to us. We, unfortunately, are often the ones who are inattentive to him. Prioritizing time for stillness is essential to listening.

When we “lay to heart” our priorities, that means we make time for our priorities. Where do we place time with God in our list of priorities? Even if we sense that he should be first, do we put that in practice? Simply putting him first is what it means to glorify his name in our hearts.

In our busy world, fewer people seem to make God a priority, but we can choose something different. We could make more time for prayer, pray before meals, bring God into our decision-making, etc.

A line in the Rule of St. Augustine, the rule of life I follow as a Dominican Sister, reminds us that “Pride lies lurking even in good works.”

The scribes and Pharisees, whom Jesus rebukes in Matthew 23, are well-educated and religious people who have knowledge of the sacred texts, which is honorable and even desirable. Yet they practice various observances not for the glory of the Lord’s name, but for their own glory. They want to be noticed. They desire to be addressed with titles that humble souls shun, for humble souls know that nothing good is possible without God’s grace and blessing.

Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus taught his disciples to do good and to pray in secret (Mt 6:4,6), taking care not to perform good works simply so that they would be seen by others. Doing good works that are hidden from the notice of others protects the soul from vanity.

Vanity busies itself with garnering others’ notice and praise, thus turning one’s heart in on itself. It shrinks one’s heart so that there is room only for me. If it is left unchecked, vanity can become the instrument by which I measure my own goodness and worth.

Sometimes I may even fall into the temptation to earn God’s recognition by seeking to perform works perfectly or so that I can win God’s favor! What an exhausting existence, and one that certainly does not contribute to that interior stillness where I can hear the still, small voice of God within me.

On the other hand, great-hearted souls (who possess what St. Thomas Aquinas calls the virtue of magnanimity), are forgetful of self. Their senses are alert to others’ good, and so they seek to serve their neighbors from the heart. Great-hearted souls who believe in God acknowledge that nothing is done without the Lord, so all glory is his. Such an assurance is a source of great peace.

“In you, Lord, I have found my peace” (Ps 131). Entrusting each one of our prayers and our works to the Lord, a loving Father with an authority greater than ourselves, lifts a burden – the burden of self-seeking.

In our culture, we are all seekers. We seek happiness as we perceive it for ourselves, whether that be in honors, positions, wealth, or distractions. We desire the security and peace which comes from obtaining our desires. And yet, we can lose our way, because there are so many distractions.

Jesus clearly stated that he is the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6). He is with us. The greatest security and peace is a gift to be received; a relationship with Christ to be relished.

So, instead of a grasping heart, why not strive this week for a grateful heart that listens attentively to what the Lord might be saying to us? A grateful heart is a happy heart, the saying goes, for a grateful heart glorifies the Lord’s name and sees his protecting, guiding hand in every moment of life, even on the rough or dark or stormy ways.

Trusting that we are known, loved, and cared for by the Lord of hosts is the antidote to calm every anxiety. In this way, we become “like a satisfied child on its mother’s lap” (Ps 131:2). Our souls are at rest and make it a priority to listen and glorify God in our hearts.


Sister Mary Aquinas Halbmaier is a Dominican Sister of Saint Cecilia currently serving Saint Mary Star of the Sea School, Hampton, as the seventh and eighth grade theology and language arts teacher. She grew up in beautiful northern Idaho. Besides spending time with Jesus in Eucharistic adoration, she enjoys being outdoors attuning all her senses to God via his magnificent gift of creation.

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