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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Embraced by Lent: Where am I with God? Listen.

(Click here for complete readings. Audio option. Courtesy, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.)
I am blessed! Many years ago I had the opportunity to enter into a wonderful, life-giving friendship with the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA. This was during a challenging time in my faith journey, and it was in the early days of my relationship with this community that I came to a deeper understanding of the word, “LISTEN.”
In the prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict, directed to his novices, I discovered the following: “Listen carefully, my child, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart” (Proverbs 4:20).
LISTEN … incline the ear of your heart!”In the first reading for this third Wednesday of Lent, we read the words of Moses from the Book of Deuteronomy; “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 4:1)
When we LISTEN, what do we hear God saying to us? I discovered this verse from St. Benedict at the same time the doctors from the Cleveland Clinic discovered my heart disease. I remember watching, enthralled, as the doctors skillfully weaved a small catheter though my veins into my heart. In the blink of an eye, there it was — my heart on the television monitor in front of me. I LISTENED as the doctors spoke among themselves with their technical language, “55 percent blockage here, 45 percent here,” and so on.
I saw something different from them. I saw a heart that was blocked or scarred in other ways. I became aware of the pains of a lifetime; the hurts, the disappointments, the failed relationships, the small and the big deaths that we all experience throughout our lives.
I knew the doctors could handle their part of the situation, but I also knew that ultimately, unless I truly gave my heart over to God, and really LISTENED to the plans God had for me, I would always suffer from heart problems.
LISTENING to God is not easy. It wasn’t then, and almost 25 years later it is still a challenge. When I LISTEN only to me, or worse, to the voices around me, sometimes these voices lead me further away from God than toward God.
Why LISTEN? Perhaps part of the answer comes from the words of Deuteronomy, “HEAR … that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.”
Lent — LISTENING to God — reminds us that however short or long our journeys may be, ultimately God is preparing us to enter in and take possession of the land God has promised us.
Almost 25 years after that first heart experience, I underwent open heart surgery in the fall of 2010 — four coronary bypasses. The doctors did a great job, but God has done an even better one — after all, I am still LISTENING! Are you?
Father James McDonald professed vows as a Redemptorist in 1984 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1990. He is currently stationed at San Alfonso Retreat House in Long Branch, NJ.
More reflections:
Getting Back to Basics: What Lent IS and IS NOT
Slowing Down, Entering the Desert
A New Look at Life — Transfiguration, Wow!