Fr. Mark's Homily - November 14, 2010
Hearing God’s Voice – Part II
As we approach the end of the Liturgical Year we find the Scripture readings focus our attention to the eschatological events that take place at the end of the age. The word eschatological comes from the Greek word eschata which means “last things.” The field of study pertaining to the “last things” is known as eschatology. It is very important to understand as Catholics what we believe about the last things for they affect all of us personally and there will be a generation of Christians who will have to go through the eschatological events described by our Lord corporately at the end of this age. Our first reading from the prophet Malachi speaks of that time when God will cleanse the earth of the arrogant and unrepentant so that His purified Church can enter an Era of peace and righteousness (Is. 11:6-11; Rev. 20:4). On a personal level, we all will face what we call in our Catholic faith the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. We will all die one day, we will all be judged and have to give an account of our lives before God and we all have two choices given to us as to where we will spend eternity –heaven or hell. It is essential we live with a biblical worldview with the knowledge of these realities so that we live our lives in such a way that ensures we get to the destination God intends for us, heaven and that when we come to the end of our lives we have brought some things with us that will last for eternity. The Lord Jesus spoke often about bearing fruit that will last for eternity (Jn.15:1-5) and laying up treasures in heaven where moth does not corrupt (Matt. 6:19-21).
This week we continue to look at prayer and specifically how we hear God’s voice. Last week we saw that the most common way God can speak to us is through His Word, the Scriptures. The Word of God is living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword. It is like a “mirror” into which we look and see ourselves as we really are in the light of God’s truth. This may mean we have to make adjustments in our lives in terms of how we think and how we act. This is part of the process of conversion. In his book Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer Fr. Thomas Dubay writes, “From the point of view of attention and intimacy with God, supreme Beauty, supreme Delight, conversion includes a change from little or no prayer to a determined practice of Christic meditation leading eventually to contemplative intimacy, “pondering the Word day and night”, leading to a sublime “gazing on the beauty of the Lord” with all its varying depths and intensities (Ps. 1:1-2; 27:4).” As we discipline ourselves to pray, it will become a habit and then a way of life that will lead us to deep union with God. As I said a couple of weeks ago, it is not hard to spend time with someone who is beautiful. The Lord Jesus is the most beautiful, delightful, magnificent person we could spend time with. As we spend time with the Lord, a transformation of both mind and heart begins to take place. There is going to be a change in our desires, thoughts and actions which are going to begin to imitate or reflect the way the Lord Jesus thought and acted. His desires will become our desires. What’s important to Him becomes important to us. We are set free, little by little, from our own personal preferences and sympathies which are most often contrary to objective truth, beauty and goodness – reality as it really is. We desire more and more to please Him in all that we do. It all begins with prayer and hearing His voice, heeding what the Lord says to us and allowing Him to transform us as we co-operate with His grace.
So, let us look at how God speaks to us through Scripture a bit more closely. As we read a passage of Scripture sometimes it is as if the words “pop off the page” or hit us between the eyes.” When this happens it is known as a “rhema” word. The Greek word rhema means “the Lord’s utterance.” It is as if the Lord is taking those words of Scripture and making them real and specific to us at that given time and they are relevant to our lives in some way at that time ( guidance, healing, wisdom, need to forgive etc.). This does happen every time we read Scripture but it does happen and we need to be attentive when it does. Most often as we read Scripture we can just ask ourselves, how can we practically apply what we have read to our lives? It is in reading Scripture regularly that our minds are renewed over time and more and more we take on the mind of Christ (1Cor. 2:16). As we put Scripture in our minds we give the Holy Spirit something to work with as we go through our day and it is not uncommon to have a verse of Scripture that comes to our mind through the day that the Spirit brings to our remembrance and again it will be applicable to our lives at that time. It may be we face a particular temptation and immediately a verse of Scripture comes to mind that reminds us that to act on that temptation would be a sin. It is the Holy Spirit at that time saying, “you don’t want to do that it will lead to consequences that you will not like and it will wound your relationship with your God.”
In addition to Scripture, God can speak to us through dreams, visions, inner locutions (Joel 2:28) and He speaks through nature (Rom. 1:20; 8:19-28). In fact, I believe God is speaking to us quite dramatically through nature these days. It has been said that, “when man rebels against God, nature rebels against man” and also that “nature defends God whereas prayer defends man.” The extremes of nature speak to the fact that there is chaos in the moral order – we are not living as a culture as God calls us to live, holy lives and we are not praying enough. As we have taken God out of our parliament, our local government and our schools we are reaping in the natural order what we have sown in the moral order –lawlessness on an increasing level and this is reflected in nature as well. Pope Benedict has referred to this as an “eclipse of the sense of God” and has called for a re-evangelization of nations that once had “deep roots” in Christianity. As we hear the readings over the next few weeks we should look around us to observe what is happening in our country and the world and recognize that many of the “proximate signs” that the Lord Jesus gave that would precede the end of the age seem to be present. What should our response be? For the faithful Catholic who is praying each day, serving in the Church and the world and striving to live a holy life and be a “witness” to the gospel there is nothing to change. Keep living as you are living. The safest place one can be in this life is “in the will of God.” If we are living in God’s will with our “lives hidden in Christ” we have nothing to be afraid of. However, it is not a time to be lukewarm about our relationship with God. If we are lukewarm, may I exhort us to decide today to once again return to our “first love.” The world needs ‘witnesses to the gospel’ at this time in history more than ever. We need to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within us (1Pt. 3:15-16) because we are followers of Jesus Christ. We find ourselves in a world that so often has little reason to give hope to people. In Advent we are going to look specifically at this hope.
Our readings today should spur us on to spend time with God each day in prayer. If we have never really made a personal surrender to the Lord Jesus, today can be that day and we can begin to form a personal relationship with God through Jesus. If we have been lukewarm and careless in our relationship with the Lord, today we can determine to return to or first love. And if we are actively engaged in our relationship with God continue to serve the Lord with joy each day knowing there is always more in God, we can go deeper. As we spend time with God, meditating on His Word or some aspect of our Faith, the Holy Spirit will begin to illuminate our minds with His truth, He will speak to us. Last week I gave a list of the types of things that we should expect God to speak to us about (see November 7th homily). God loves us and cares about every aspect of our lives. As we spend time with the Lord and listen we will hear His voice. When we do it is important to heed His voice and be obedient to whatever He says to us. Obedience to God is the way to His blessing, healing, peace, joy and hope in our lives. I conclude with another promise to those who will seek the Lord humbly in prayer, “Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened. For everyone that asks receives, and he who seeks finds and to him who knocks the door is opened…know how your Father who is in heaven gives good gifts to those who ask Him” (Mt. 7:7;11). Prayer is about expressing our desire to love and know God and receive the good gifts He wishes to bestow upon those who desire them.
Recommended Reading: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer by Fr. Thomas Dubay (available at Veritas Bookstore)