There is an ancient biblical prayer called “The Shama”. In it condenses a lot of meaning in just few words. Through centuries it is repeated not only as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services, but also as a tradition where Jews used to say it as their last words, and for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night. The Gospel of (Mark 12:29–31) mentions that Jesus considered the opening exhortation of “The Shama” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6) to be the first of his two greatest commandments:
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Listen, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
The term “Shama”, the opening word of the text is used by extension to refer to the whole prayer. And “Shama” is the Hebrew word for "listen" that finds another synonym: “hear”. But is hearing and listening the same thing?
In fact, in life we have the ability to hear without listening. Someone’s voice can reach our ears but when they don’t enter into our heart and mind we are not really “listening”. However, from a biblical perspective, God wants us to “listen” to His voice, to pay attention to it and OBEY His Word. And in order for us to accomplish that, we must use more than our ears; we must also listen with our hearts. Theologians noted that it may be the reason why the heart is mentioned first (in Deuteronomy 6:5), not only as the seat of the emotions but traditionally as the center where decisions are taken.
In a beautiful painting signed by the Italian artist Giovanni Gasparro, one can perceive St Joseph, the silent figure of the New Testament as a youthful character holding a lily stalk a symbol of chastity. On the other hand, the model of the pious believer holds a shining heart titled by the artist as “The Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph”.
The Gospel does not record one spoken verse for St. Joseph. Nevertheless, what this great saint did in his life for God speaks volumes….we know that he must have asked and received “ Shama” a listening heart, one that could clearly hear and obey the Lord’s direction and guidance.
In the heart of the Holy family that Joseph guarded, a similar “Garden of Eden” was once again under attention. But this time, dwellers lived from their hearts a faithful communion with God. St. Joseph despite all the odd situations he had experienced, he was never disobedient but totally dependent on God’s voice, submissive to His Word. He carried out his vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying, ‘Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.'
Today, St. Joseph stands as a wonderful example in getting back to God’s original intention for human heart. In an age of information, this saint teaches us to discern true knowledge. He chose to listen to God. He asked that his heart be reconnected to God’s heart so he could live out of true fellowship with Him. At the crossroads of life, St Joseph kindly reminds us to choose the opposite of Adam and Eve… he prompts us not to rely on our own mind’s best guess but instead to rule with a righteous chaste heart that is filled with God’s Word.
In (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) the Lord declares: “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death… Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. And that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life.”
And thus… on the path of this life, and amongst the loads of voices we daily receive, a vital question arises which direction our “Shama” shall take? May we never forget that in the answer lies our fate!