Sunday, May 5, 2013

Hearing the Voice

Readings for May 5/ Sixth Sunday of Easter:
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
Psalm 67:2-3, 5-6, 8
Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23
John 14:23-29

“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”

This promise that Jesus makes to the Apostles of the Spirit’s guidance was indeed a beneficial and even necessary thing. Think about it – the Apostles were given the mission to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth and yet they only had three short years with the Lord. It doesn’t matter how brilliant one might be, that is not enough time to understand the fullness of the Gospel. Countless men and women of the Church have spent their lives in study and come up short of the fullness of the faith. So they needed the Spirit to help them grow in their knowledge of the faith and wisdom. Also, they needed the Spirit because they often struggled to grasp the deeper meaning and reality of things. They struggled to understand the Resurrection, the Eucharist, miracles and healings, key teachings, and other important aspects of Christ’s earthly ministry. It was by the gift of the Spirit that they came to grasp the meaning of these things. Like a movie that continues on until with a few minutes left some details are revealed and the viewers receive an awareness of something that changes everything else in the movie, those seemingly-insignificant details now becoming extremely important. So with the Apostles, who on receiving the Spirit came to understand quickly the true meaning of all that Jesus taught and did while among them.

Just as the Spirit came upon the Apostles in order to help them follow the Lord’s command, so also He comes to us in Baptism. There the Spirit comes to dwell within our hearts, making us Temple’s of God. And just as He taught and reminded the disciples about the things of the Lord, so too does He desire to do that with us. The question is are we really listening to the Spirit? Or are we listening instead to the voice of another?

One thing that I often reflect on is the difficulty of hearing God’s voice. The truth of the matter is that anytime we are faced with a decision about what to believe and what to do we are being bombarded with multiple voices. First we have ourselves, with our feelings, thoughts, and personal history that come into play. We have the family and friends around us with their expectations. We have the culture and society around us that has no problem telling us what we should think and do. Always in the midst of decision-making is the voice of the Devil because he seeks to lead us astray from the one voice that matters most of all – the voice of God. It’s no wonder that we struggle sometimes to hear God’s voice and follow after it confidently as the Gospel calls us to today.

Our first reading from Acts shows us that this reality of difficult in hearing God’s voice is not something new either. We hear the story of a community who is experiencing unrest because of false teachings. They lack peace because rather than following the voice of the Spirit that brings us peace, as our Gospel points out, they follow the voices of others. Because the teachings are not true, their peace is taken away. And how do they have it restored? By going to the ones who have the special grace of the Spirit in leading the Church – the Apostles. By the Apostles’ clarification on what is to be done and what avoided, peace is restored because they have once more heard the voice of the Lord.

While we don’t have disputes over circumcision, eating the meat of strangled animals and that sacrificed to idols, we do have other serious issues in the Church today that are causing unrest in the hearts of many. Things particularly here in America, and even other parts of the world, such as so-called homosexual marriage, the ordination of women, abortion, contraception, immigration, and a host of other issues are often on the front pages of papers and websites. The Apostles of the Church – the Popes and bishops – have spoken on these topics and sought to bring peace, but sadly there are still many in the Church who have rejected this teaching of the Holy Spirit and continued to press more firmly with their own desires because they fail to listen to the voice of God who leads us to Himself. In most cases it’s not out of malice toward the Church, but simply because they haven’t been able to hear clearly the voice of God speaking. These are just some of the big things though. Each one of us is faced daily with decisions that greatly impact our lives, our families and our community. And in each of those decisions we hear those many voices crying out to us. So how is it that we can come to know the voice of Truth? Prayer.

If we have a friend or acquaintance with whom we rarely speak, then when conversation takes place it can be labored, difficult, and even unfamiliar. But if we speak to them often, we draw closer and are able to talk freely and can identify their voice easily and know their heart and desires more fully. And the same goes with Our Lord. If we fail to spend time in prayer, then when those decisions need to be made we will struggle to know what to do because we are not quite familiar with the Lord’s voice to know it when we hear it. But if we make time for prayer, if we intentionally spend time speaking with the Lord and listening for Him to speak with us in that great spiritual exchange, then we become used to hearing His voice and knowing what He wants. The closer we grow to the Lord the less we need to worry about those other voices because we will see them for what they are and we will know His voice and rejoice to follow it.

My brother and sisters, Pentecost is just two weeks away now. Why not spend this time in special dialogue with the Lord. Just as soil need to be tilled and fertilized to receive seed and produce good fruits, so too does our soul need to be prepared for the gifts of God. So let us spend these last two weeks of Easter in prayer that by God’s grace we might receive well the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost and truly be able to hear His voice and joy fully follow after Him all the days of our lives, keeping the word of God and immersing ourselves in His peace.