Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How to hear the Shepherd's Voice (Sunday homily)

(What follows are notes. When I delivered this homily, I filled in a fair amount.)

How can we be sure the voice we are listening to is really Jesus’?

First, I want to make a distinction between the voices we hear from outside, and the voice we hear within. One aspect of that “voice within” is our conscience. We hear a lot about conscience, but let’s be clear. Our conscience can be deformed – if we silence it, if we torture our conscience by rationalizing wrong into right, and if we seek voices that will tell us what we want to hear.

So that makes it all the more important to know: what are the resources where we can be sure we’re hearing Jesus’ voice “from the outside”?

Let’s talk about the voices that are outside us, that we can be sure about:

- The Scriptures
- The teaching of the Church
- The way we pray as Catholics – meaning, the Mass, as well as devotions such as the Rosary, the Sacred Heart devotion, the Divine Mercy.
- The lives of the saints are the best commentary on the Gospels.

Let me call attention to what I didn’t cite:

- Blogs and websites where people are arguing and attacking and complaining.
- Angry groups that have agendas they want the Church to pursue.
- People who are pessimistic and worriers.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying any of these people are bad people, or that you shouldn’t be friends with them, or talk to them, or hear what they have to say. What I am saying is that all these points of view can only give us a part of the truth. And I do think that we can become a little “hardened” in our point of view.

And part of the reason why some of these voices can be a problem is that we take all that fury and worry into our own hearts and minds, and the noise from without is turned into noise within. I’ve told this story before, but I recall my mother – when she was a young woman during World War II – she came home from work, and her mother was frantic. “What’s wrong?” “There were seven ships sunk today – I heard it on the radio!” In fact, my grandmother had heard the same report, of one ship sunk, over and over, all day long. If we tune into those voices that are telling us how terrible things are, over and over, where will that leave us?

The world has trouble. We want to be well informed. But some people think they are supposed to carry the weight of the whole world’s troubles on their backs. Who says?

OK, now I want to talk more about the voice within, and how we hear that. Conscience is only part of that voice within. The most important voice we hear in our hearts is Jesus himself – and we can hear his voice within ourselves if we want to; but it seldom just comes out of the blue.

So how do we hear his voice in our hearts?

If I am sitting with you, and you are speaking – and if you are, let us say, soft-spoken, do you think I’m going to hear you very well, if:

- The windows and doors are open and there’s noise from outside
- The TV is on with a Reds game I’m keeping one eye on
- I have a computer or a phone in my hand, and I’m checking emails and writing texts.

If you want to hear Jesus speak to you, you’re going to have to close the door, turn off the TV, and shut off the technology. I don’t mean never use them; I mean, give yourself some real silence.

I realize for many, especially when you have children to care for, this can be hard. Do what you can. But I believe for many of us, it’s not that we can’t do it, as much as we don’t especially want to. We always find reasons to put it off.

But remember, we’re not just tuning into silence or gazing into an empty sky. Jesus is clear: he wants us to hear him. He is speaking! The great enemy of our conversation with Jesus is noise and distraction, not just from outside, but within our own hearts and minds. We need silence; if only for a few minutes


Doug H said...

Silence - very underrated in our society and culture. We need to diminish or eliminate the distractions to make time to talk with our kids, our spouse, and most of all our Lord and King. Thanks for speaking so eloquently about this Father!

Jim in St Louis said...

I'm genuinely jealous of those who can hear the voice of Jesus. I've tried to find that quiet after the wind and earthquake and fire and listen for that still small voice, but all I hear is the void.

Not a play for sympathy- I have a great and full life, and I'm aware that even some of the greatest saints had spiritual drought too. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I'll just try to be as open to the word as I can.