Listen Carefully to the Command
In 1854, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote a poem commemorating “The Light Brigade”, a British cavalry unit which fought a battle against the Russians during the Crimean War. Because of poor intelligence and poorly communicated orders, half of the brigade’s six hundred men were killed, wounded, or captured. The original order was to “advance rapidly to the front, follow the enemy and try to prevent them from carrying away the guns.” After the order passed through several different officers, what Lord Cardigan heard was “advance rapidly” which meant mounting a frontal attack against Russian forces. Tennyson honored this brigade’s battle for following orders even though they were poorly conceived and communicated.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Listen to the Word of God Like the Blessed Virgin Mary
The importance of “listening” in order “to obey” and to return to God is the first rule of St. Benedict. The etymology of “obey” is from the Latin “obedire” which implies “listening” in order to act. In response to a woman who blessed Mary for bearing and nursing him, Jesus said in Luke 11:28 “Blessed are those who listen to the word of God and keep it.” Jesus said hearing and obeying the word of God is more important than a familial relationship to himself. Jesus made a similar point in Luke 8:21, when he was told that his family was trying to reach him through the press of the crowd. “My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
The beloved physician, Luke, holds up the Blessed Virgin Mary as the model disciple. At the Visitation, Elizabeth said of Mary, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord,” that she would be the mother of the savior, Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Lk 1:45) At the Nativity, when the shepherds brought the news of the angelic host heralding the birth of a Savior, Christ the LORD, in Bethlehem, “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Lk 2:19)
At the Presentation, Mary and Joseph marveled at what Simeon said about their son, Jesus. (Lk 2:33) When Jesus was lost and then found in the temple at age 12, “Mary kept all these things in her heart.” (Lk 2:51). Mary was always listening, pondering, and keeping important words and messages in her heart.
Listen with Humility and Ponder with Jeremiah
Why do I have a hard time listening and obeying? Is my deafness due to a spiritual hardness of heart caused by sin? A solution to this problem is Psalm 119:11. “I have laid up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” But the reality may be that social media, distractions of work and anxieties about the future, such as the COVID 19 pandemic, may keep me from reading Scripture and praying. God’s word is not being laid up in my heart. Humility, sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening, like Martha’s sister Mary did at Bethany, is the “one thing necessary.” What disaster can I avoid in my life’s relationships and decisions if I spend more time with Jesus? With whom does God want me to share His word today?
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.” Jer 15:16, RSV2CE