Fr. Mark's Homily - November 7, 2010
Prayer- Hearing God’s Voice
Last week we looked at how to have a structured time of prayer, a simple 7 step model given to us by St. Ignatius of Loyola (posted on website –stacm.ca). This week we look at “Hearing God’s Voice.” This presumes that God is speaking and wants to speak to us. There are many Scriptures that show us God speaks. Throughout the Old Testament we hear the phrase, “Thus says the Lord.” Notice the tense here of the verb, it is present tense, not past. God is still speaking. In the Gospel of John the Lord Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me” (Jn.10:27). In the Book of revelation we hear Jesus say, “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Rev.2:7). In fact Jesus says this seven times in the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation. Yes, God is the living God who is speaking, he wants to speak to us and He wants us to hear his voice.
If you recall in John’s Gospel Our Lord says, “I am the vine and you are the branches, he who abides in Me and I in Him bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing” (Jn.15:5). The context of these words is where Jesus is speaking to the disciples about sending the Holy Spirit after the resurrection. Prayer is what gets the “sap” flowing from the vine (Jesus) to the branches (us). The Holy Spirit can be viewed as the “sap.” Prayer gets the Holy Spirit flowing in our lives. It is the Holy Spirit that communicates and manifests all the good gifts and graces that God wishes to bestow upon us. Prayer opens and expands our minds and hearts to receive them. Remember prayer is lifting the mind and heart to God and begins the process of inward transformation (holiness) which takes places in two ways: 1) the renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:2) and the transformation of our hearts (Ez. 36: 26-27) where God takes away our stony heart and gives us a heart of flesh through the Holy Spirit. He begins to write His laws, statutes and judgements in our minds and hearts. It is God doing the transforming as we co-operate with His grace.
As we begin to set a specific time aside each day to pray (seeking), showing our desire to love, know and understand God, the Lord begins to reveal Himself to us. He begins to speak to us. So, how do we hear His voice? The most common way we hear God’s voice is through the Scriptures. In the book of Hebrews we find these words, “God who at various times and in various ways spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…” (Heb. 1:1-2). Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Word of God and is the final Word God has spoken to humanity. There is no other new revelation of God to be had. The Bible contains the words of Jesus and His apostles who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write down the proper interpretation of His Words in epistles before their death. The Bible is a living book because it is about a living Person. If we want to hear God speak to us, the simplest way is to pick up the Bible, pray to the Holy Spirit for his illumination, and begin to read and meditate on the Word. The Word of God is living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing the division between the soul and the spirit, and the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb.4:12). The Psalmist wrote, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Ps.119:105). The apostle James writes that the Word of God is like a “mirror” (Js. 1:22-25) into which we look and are able to see ourselves as we really are. In seeing ourselves as God see us we are able to make the necessary adjustments in our lives (with His grace) and walk more in the light of His truth which sets us free. Do we want to be free, to be healed and have peace, joy and hope? Then we must become both hearers and doers of God’s Word. We must hide the Word of God deep in the soil of our hearts where that good seed cannot be snatched away by the evil one. In reading and meditating on the Word of God our minds are renewed in Christ. It is important to know as Catholics that we believe the Word of God consists of both Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, which gives us the Magisterium (teaching office) of the Church. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, has preserved and protected the Church from teaching error in the area of faith and morals for two thousand years and will continue to do so until the coming of the Lord Jesus in glory. The Church has been entrusted by her Founder to be the authoritative interpreter of the Word of God (Matt. 16:18-19).
As I said last week, as we do our part in meditating on what we read, a passage of Scripture, some aspect of our Faith (i.e. passion and death of Christ or some aspect of His life, the Trinity, life of Mary, etc.) the Holy Spirit will give us insights, inspirations, promptings in what we have read and how to apply it in our lives. The saints call these inspirations, insights and promptings “lights” that God gives us so we may love, know and understand Him in a deeper and more intimate way. They are also given so we may serve Him and do His will in our lives. So, let us now look at what we might expect God to speak to us about. First, we should expect Him to reveal His love for us poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). The Psalmist tells us His thoughts towards us each day are more numerable than the grains of sand (Ps.139:17-18). Meditate on that for a while and it will change your life and how you view God. We should expect God to reveal and give us insights into His goodness, majesty, mercy, compassion, justice, power and holiness – He is an awesome God! We should expect God to reveal truth to us because the world is full of lies that many of us have believed and bought into. God wants to correct our thinking so we can be free and live the abundant life He wants to give us. We should expect Him to speak to us about things in our lives that offend Him (sin). As well as inspire, comfort and console us, the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin. Not because He wants to condemn us (God never condemns) but because He loves us and wants us to turn from anything that will hinder His movement in our lives and us receiving the good gifts and graces He has for us. The Holy Spirit will speak to us about forgiving those who have hurt us and asking for forgiveness of those we have hurt. We should expect God to teach us how to fight the good fight of faith, how to resist temptation to sin and to defeat the evil one’s influence in our lives. As St. Paul wrote, we are not to be ignorant of His devices. We need to know our enemy, how he works, his strategies and how we can defeat him (Eph. 6:10-18). We should expect God to speak to us about what He is doing in the Church and the world, to give us wisdom and understanding of the times we live in (1 Pt. 4:17; Is. 33:6) so we are not surprised or shaken in mind with events as they happen. We should expect God to speak to us about direction in our lives concerning such things as religious life, single-state or marriage as a vocation; also concerning our field of study and work. If married we should expect God to gives us wisdom in bringing up our children – proper boundaries, discipline, patience, their schooling, and most important, their education in the Faith. Parents are the primary educators of their children in the Faith. He will speak to us about how, what and who to pray for (Rom. 8:26-27). These are the sorts of things that God will speak to us about as we seek Him in prayer.
Next week we will look at other ways God speaks to us and how we discern that it is indeed His voice we are hearing. In closing let us hear one of the promises of God to those who seek Him humbly in prayer, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. He gives power to the weak. And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youth shall faint and be weary. And the young men shall utterly fall. But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint” (Is. 40: 28-31).