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.