|Rev. Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.|
Jesus defines a disciple as one who listens to His voice and does His will. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) Such are the followers whose lives are rooted and grounded in God’s love. In this is unfailing wisdom says the Lord: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24) They are not swayed by the currents of the world and fickle opinions of the people. They are determined to listen to what God has to say and live out life by His dictates.
“Blessed Are Those Who Hear The Word Of God” (Luke 11:28)
A young man, very committed to do God’s will asked me whether it was possible for him to hear the voice of God. I recommended him to read the Bible on a daily basis. He replied saying he does that. He shared that when he reads the Bible, he often feels very touched by certain sentences that stand out in a bright light before his eyes. He would however continue reading the passage and the sentences soon lose their impact. I told him that it was not enough to read the Bible. The Bible indeed is the Word of God, which is “living and active” as the Letter to the Hebrews teaches us (Hebrews 4:12). A Living Word is not to be read but to be heard in the depths of the soul. Therefore when we read the Word of God, we must be attentive to God waiting to speak to our hearts. I explained to him that when he felt touched by a particular verse in the Bible, he must recognize that those were the hallowed moments God wanted to speak to Him personally. In such moments, he should dwell on the verse reading it repeatedly and learning it by heart. In silence one needs to wait upon God with the prayer of Samuel, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10) It is in such moments that God’s Word becomes real to our soul.
The psalmist tells us “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my misery.” (Psalm 119:92) The psalmist is thanking God for sending His Word to him in the moment of distress. That Word became the delight of his heart - casting away the shadows of misery. There is indeed delight in the Word of God that can dispel all darkness of sorrow from our heart. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11) There is a fullness of joy contained in what the Lord has spoken to us. Again Jesus says, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63) It is vital for us to open our hearts for the content of God’s Word to flow into us. Prophet Ezekiel speaks of how God instructed him to consume the word which he did and he testifies, “I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.” (Ezekial 3:3) Prophet Jeremiah confirms this beauty of God’s Word, “Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart.” (Jeremiah 15:16) We also have a warning “If today, you would hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” (Psalm 95:7-8)
“If Anyone Hears My Voice And Opens The Door, I Will Come In” (Revelations 3:20)
The Bible speaks about the necessity of the eager waiting to make the Word of God a real experience in our lives. The Word of God has a very personal message to be conveyed to us. For every circumstance of our life, there is a word God is waiting for us to receive. Often we are satisfied with the historical meaning of the events of the Bible. Definitely the Bible speaks about historic events that took place at some point of time. For example what God did to King David when he committed a sin or how Jesus went to the house of Zacchaeus declaring salvation. These historical events have a theological meaning to convey to us. These mentioned events, for instance, speak of God’s Mercy. God takes the initiative to save King David and Zacchaeus. The theological lesson is taught once and for all as Jesus said, “The Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) God however gives a very personal meaning to us when we read the Bible. God is the Love who is concerned about every single detail of our life. As Jesus, “Even the hairs of your head are all counted.” (Matthew 10:30) In a difficult moment of life when I struggle with a problem, God will not be speaking theories and principles but a personal message of love to console my grieving heart. When we accept that message as the response for the heart, the Word of God becomes a comforting experience for us.
A question often asked is this, “Why is it that we are not able to hear the voice of God if He is speaking to us?” We learn a good lesson from the experience of prophet Samuel. God called him by name. He heard the call but mistook the voice to be that of the priest Eli. The boy ran to Eli asking why he called him. Eli only sent him back to sleep saying he had not called him. However when this recurred a third time, Eli sensed it was in fact God calling Samuel. He directed the boy to respond to God by saying, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” This time Samuel went to lie down not to sleep but to wait to listen. God called him and he responded as Eli had instructed. He listened to God’s voice preparing him to be the prophet of the people of God. There is a key verse in the passage that explains why the boy was not able to identify the voice of God, “The Lord had not spoken to Samuel before, and Samuel did not recognize the voice.” (1 Samuel 3:7) Since Samuel was not familiar with the voice of God, he took it for granted that it was a mere human voice. That is why he ran to Eli and enquired if it was the priest who called him.
This is perhaps a common limitation. Since we are not used to the Voice of God, we do not imagine that God would speak to us. Neither do we expect to hear the Voice of God. Even as you are reading this article, I would ask you to pause a moment and check if are you able to hear the voice of Pope Francis. If you are not able to hear him, it is not because the Pope is not speaking. The sound waves have not been conveyed to you. If you bring a radio and keep it by your side and tune in to the Vatican Radio channel, the voice of the Pope will be clearly audible to you. So also we are not able to listen to the Voice of God not because God is not speaking but we because we have not tuned our hearts to the wavelength of God’s Voice. The Lord assures us, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great things.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
“He Sustains All Things By His Powerful Word” (Hebrews 1:3)
A young man came here for the retreat very distressed about what was happening to him. He failed in his college exam though he worked hard. When this happened, the father sent him to work in a relative’s business. He wanted to pursue his studies. But the father did not believe him to be capable of it. The son however was determined to demand this from his father. He stopped going for the work. He told his father in a very strong tone that he would only agree to continue his studies. The father was angry. The relatives instigated the parents that the boy was arrogant and lazy. The father shouted at him saying, “You are not good for anything. You are a liability to the family.” When he approached his mother hoping to get some consolation, she was already influenced by the discussions in the family. She scolded him saying, “You have failed us. You do not want to even honour your father. You are a disgrace to us.”
The young man was very shocked and slipped into depressive thinking. The words of the parents kept echoing in his thoughts. He decided there was nothing for him to live for anymore. He slipped into the habit of pornography. He became more hateful of life and of himself. He would not get sleep at night. He would spend his days locked up in the room. He began taking anti-depressants.
He was brought for a youth retreat by a neighbour boy who knew that he was going through some problem. This young man came to me in the beginning of the retreat saying he could not attend the sessions because of his medication. When I enquired why it should affect his participation, he openly shared all that he had been through. He was particularly angry with his parents. Their contempt towards him seemed unbearable. He was hateful towards them and towards himself. He hated his habits and his dependence on medication. I realized that the words of his parents had broken his heart. I explained to him that God has brought him for the retreat to speak a special word to him. If the words of those around him had triggered his downfall, he could be sure that the Word of God will rebuild his life. I encouraged him to wait upon God for His Word.
On the third day of the retreat, the priest proclaimed from the pulpit a word from the prophecy of Zechariah, “Thus says the LORD, ‘He who touches you, touches the apple of His eye.’” (Zechariah 2:8) The priest explained that God sees His people as the apple of His eye. Listening to this, the young man at first dismissed it, “When I am not good enough even for my parents, why would God ever call me as the apple of His eye. Everyone looks at me as a liability and a disgrace. This is not God speaking to me, definitely.” The more he tried to resist the Word, the more powerfully the Word entered his heart. At one moment he felt the power of this Word gripping his heart! With a chill running down his spine, he realized it was God speaking and it was God speaking to him! Like lightning, it struck him that whatever the parents had said was not truth. God knew him and they did not. He was precious for God. God would be with him to support him and to fight his battle. A heavenly comfort filled his heart. A courage to face his future was infused into him. He wanted to live! He wanted to forgive his parents and move ahead. That night he did not need his tablets to sleep. As he woke up the next day, he felt a new enthusiasm for life. As he went back after the retreat, he took the Bible and read and reread that particular passage that remoulded his life. One thing occurred to him that the parents who had despised him should know that they were hurting the apple of the eye of God. But it was sure to him that the parents should know the truth not from his reaction towards them but by his changed way of life where he would give them the honour he never did in the past. When he returned home, his parents could not but notice a brightness that surrounded their son. His loving approach disarmed them. They came for the retreat and came to discuss with me their confusions. I encouraged them to trust him and send him for studies. This young man came out with flying colours, grateful to God for revealing to him how precious his life was.
“ Your Ears Will Hear A Word Behind You, ‘This Is The Way, Walk In It’ ” (Isaiah 30:21)
Life is made up of the decisions we make. At crucial moments when we take decisions, we need to be confirmed by what God has to say to us. Again in the situations of conflict in the family and everything looks dismal, we cannot abandon ourselves to our troubles. We need to know God is an ever-present help waiting to guide us to a healing solution. In this world we will face temptations. We could feel distant from God. We read how Jesus faced his temptations by resorting to the Word of God. The Word of God is indeed a sword that we need to dispel temptations. We may reach a situation where everyone says things that defeat us and our own thinking crushes us. God however is unchanging in His Plan to lead us to victorious existence. If we wait to listen to His Voice, we will indeed experience that His words are spirit and they are life.
Let Us Pray:
Lord Jesus, You are the Word that became Flesh to dwell in our midst. You continue to dwell in our midst revealing the Mercy and Power of the Father through Your Word. We bow down before Your Great Love for us that You care for every detail of our lives and for every little concern that bothers us. We had been people who had ears but would not listen and our lives were like rudderless ships. We thought life had no meaning or hope. From here we choose to wait on You as Mother Mary did. Speak Your Word to us, O God, that Your Word may be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.