Daily Reflection
May 20th, 2004
Tom Purcell
Accounting Department
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Acts 18:1-8
Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4
John 16:16-20

Today’s readings have an underlying current of gradual change.  Paul makes tents and discusses his faith on a part-time basis but then begins “to occupy himself totally with preaching the word.”  The responsorial psalm speaks of revelations of the Lord’s saving power through wondrous deeds, kindness and faithfulness, and justice, to all the ends of the earth.  And even Jesus speaks of a coming change, a change that will take place in a “little while.”  All three of these passages speak to a growing awareness of the truth, a truth that was already before the people in the passages but which they could not comprehend unless they allowed themselves to grow into an acceptance of its power in their lives.

There must be truth in our lives, as there was in the lives of Paul, and the psalmist, and the disciples.  How do we become aware of this truth?  We must learn to listen.  This is very hard for those of us in our modern western culture.  The attention span of my students seems to have decreased over the past 25 years as the cacophony of intrusions into their lives has increased.  My ability to keep focused also has diminished as more and more demands are made on my time (although I admit that I am the cause of many of these demands, because I say “yes” too frequently!)  I am sure most, if not all, of you reading this can relate to the sense of speed and shallowness that intrudes our lives even though we long for meaningful balance and deep peace and understanding. 

One of my favorite scripture passages is from 1 Kings, Ch. 19, when Elijah, despondent at the Israelites rejection of the Lord, goes on a retreat.  In his cave (fast forward to Ignatius in his cave!) Elijah tries to find the Lord in strong wind, and earthquake, and fire, but doesn’t connect with the Lord until he hears a tiny, whispering sound.  I think this tiny whisper is the power of the Spirit that is in us all, a power that we cannot unlock by trying to force the lock, but by being quiet, and open, and receptive to the whisper.  Paul heard the whisper of the Spirit call him to embark on the path of preaching and witness that became his life.  The power of the Lord’s salvation was revealed to the psalmist by hearing the whisper that connected the significance of all the wondrous deeds of the Lord.  The disciples understood where Jesus was going and what He meant by listening to the whisper in their hearts.

Hearing the whisper takes time and practice.  We can’t force it.  We can only unlock the whisper of the Spirit in our hearts by coming to a place of quiet and peace where we can hear that soft, tiny sound.  Hearing means that we aren’t talking – we are LISTENING.  This is hard for me (and I suspect for many others) because I was formed with prayer being formalistic (Our Father, Hail Mary) and not meditative.  It obviously takes effort - look at how difficult it was for Elijah to separate the noise from the truth.  Because it is hard, I take heart from stories such as Paul’s, and the psalmist, and the disciples, and Elijah  Ordinary people, in mostly ordinary lives, who come to an awareness of their special call from God, by listening to the whisper in their hearts.  Their call led them to extraordinary lives and deeds.  Your call, my call will lead us to lives lived in consonance with God’s call.  In today’s world, in any time and place, that too is extraordinary.  And so today my prayer is for the strength to listen for the whisper of the Spirit in my heart and to act on what I hear.

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