Whose voice do I hear?

Throughout the Old Testament we hear of God speaking and of those who heard his voice. The New Testament is, of course, replete with the voices of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But beyond the pages of Scripture—God is silent. Yet, Jesus said he would be with us always, that he would never leave us. If we are truly his disciples, should we not take him at his word?

The Good Shepherd

In our anguish we cry for comfort; in our weakness we ask for strength; in our brokenness we plead for mercy; for our sins we beg for pardon; in our hatred we look for love; in our sickness we search for healing; in our blindness we call for light; in our doubt we pray for faith. We cry, we plead, we beg, we pray … we seldom listen.

God is present everywhere and every time; he is integral and inseparable to all that is, was, and ever shall be. To hear his voice we must open our hearts and minds to him.

God speaks to us as much today as in the beginning. Each of us, at some moment in our life, has offered the complaint that God never responds to our prayers. We pray and pray, begging him to ease our burdens, relieve our suffering, cure our ills, wash away our sins, and forgive us for all our transgressions. And for all our prayers we hear … silence. We feel ignored by God.

God counts every breath, hears every prayer, knows every need. God never shouts, but speaks on silent, whispered breezes, soft and low. How frustrating it must be for him to hear us talk but never listen.

Even sheep, not known for being smart, are smart enough to hear and recognize their shepherd’s voice. Even sheep know enough to listen and to follow where their shepherd leads. They instinctively know they are safe as long as the shepherd is there to guide and guard them. During the day, the shepherd guides them to green pastures, beside fresh water. At night, the shepherd stands watch at the gate of the sheepfold, protecting the flock from predators who would steal or harm them.

Why is it then that we, who admittedly are far more intelligent than sheep, are so reluctant to follow our Good Shepherd? Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves: “Whose voice am I following?”

Many listen only to their own voice, granting no other cause to tell them what to do or what to believe. Many listen to the seductive calls of worldly things; wolves disguised in sheep’s clothing. Others care for nothing but to satisfy their base desires, seeking only brief and empty pleasures.

Jesus is the shepherd. We are his flock. Through him and with him and in him we will find green pastures and the waters of life everlasting. But first we must listen to his voice. We must learn to listen to his voice and turn away from the voices that would distract us, lead us astray, place us in harm’s way.

Our hearts have been hardened by worldly things. For many it has become a forgone conclusion that God, if he even exists, cannot or will never reach out and speak to them. They sit before their televisions, waiting for the news, while refusing to turn it on. God is trying to communicate; he is speaking but never heard by those who refuse to turn to his voice.

Jesus told us the reason he came was so we, his flock, might have life and have it more abundantly. In this he was telling us that words are not always necessary; God speaks to us in many ways if we are properly disposed to listen, if we are open to hear what he has to say.

God is in the good experiences that come to each of us, sharing in our delight, enveloping us with his love, telling us that he is there, watching over us, eager to respond to our needs. Likewise, God is there whenever we experience pain, sadness, guilt, or remorse. God is there, reaching out to tell us that through suffering, sadness, and remorse we can always do better, that this so too shall pass. Our conscience, which means “to know with,” tells us when our thoughts and actions have displeased God and through our conscience he speaks to us, informing us of his mercy and forgiveness.

Prayer is our direct communication‘s link with God; it is always open, and yet, we too often forget: although it is bi-directional, only one can speak at a time, the other must listen. To be effective, prayer should be reflective, offering time for contemplation in order to hear and feel the quiet breath of the Holy Spirit. Reflection clears the eyes and opens the heart to see all things new—we see what God wants us to see, we hear what God wants us to hear, we open our hearts to receive the love he has to give.

Every moment, every action, every thought can be a prayer, offered up to God in thanksgiving for all we have received from him. When we make our lives a prayer we become that which we pray. Such prayer grounds us, tunes us into God voice, and feeds our soul.

God speaks to us in the majestic beauty of his creation. Each day, take a moment to enjoy a sunrise, watch the sunset, stand in awe at the universe displayed in all its glory in the dark of night, stare intently at the colors of a rainbow, listen to the symphony of all the earth rejoicing in hymns of praise to our Creator. God is in the wind, he stands upon the mountaintops and looks down upon all which he has made and he proclaims it good. He speaks to us; we ought not to be deaf to what he is telling us.

Those chance encounters, those transient souls we meet along the way and will never meet again, even those whose presence is but a glance and nothing more. God speaks to us through their words, their actions, their attitudes and dispositions.

What God says to you, what you hear from him depends of course on your disposition toward God. Your attitude and disposition are what controls what you hear or do not hear.

If you believe God is an angry, vengeful God, who wishes to inflict pain and suffering upon you for what you have done or have failed to do, you will not be disposed to listen to what he has to say. However, when you believe God loves you despite your weaknesses and brokenness, when you strive to grow closer to him, when you are willing to accept his grace, his help to free you from guilt and shame then you will be disposed to hear his voice.

We are, by our nature, broken. We are, by our nature, disposed to sin. We have sinned and will surely sin again. It is in our nature. When we wander off, lose our way, as sheep occasionally do, we can choose to accept our fate, panic and continue to wander aimlessly, ever distancing ourselves from the fold, or we can call out for help from the Good Shepherd, knowing that he is near, ready to lift us up onto his shoulders and take us back to where we belong.

The shepherd knows his flock and calls each by name, just as God calls each of us by name. He knows each of us better than we know ourselves because he created each of us out of his boundless love. He knows us intimately, so much so, that the name he confirms for each finds its way into the deepest interior of our soul.

God is with us always. God is in us always. We can ignore him, resist him, shut him out of our lives, but we cannot escape his presence, we cannot evict him from our soul. In moments of sanity and wholeness—or perhaps in times of trouble—the spirit within us will beat to the rhythm of his voice. It cannot be silenced, it cannot be stilled, for it is the voice of God.

Amen.

Homily #121
Fourth Sunday of Easter (A)
Acts 2:14, 36-41
1 Peter 2:20-25
John 10:1-10

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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