I have a little makeshift home gym in my basement. I went down there a few days ago, planning to listen to the Creighton Bluejays basketball game on the radio while exercising. I turned on my little battery-powered radio, and dialed the usual frequency (it was not a digital tuner, but one with a simple dial and an arrow). However, all I heard was static. No matter how much I turned up the volume, I could not hear the announcer’s voice. Then I found I had to fine-tune the frequency – to listen for intelligible words as I gently rotated the dial just a smidgen. Then the game came in loud and clear.
This is what I believe the Scripture passages are telling us today – not so much about listening as about fine-tuning.
In the first reading, we hear that the Lord says: “Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people.” Then we hear: “This is the nation that does not listen to the voice of the Lord, its God . . . “
In the Gospel passage, Jesus drives out a demon in a mute man, giving him a voice. When the healed man speaks, though, some of the crowd claims that Jesus does His work by the power of Beelzebul. They were clearly not tuned in to Jesus’ message; had they been, they would not have drawn the wrong conclusion from merely watching Jesus’ actions from a distance.
I believe that Jeremiah and Jesus are trying to give us the same message: to fine-tune our hearts and minds during this Lenten season.
Just like I had to gently “tweak” the dial to fine-tune the frequency, so must we gently “tweak” our daily lives. That’s why Lenten observances, though they may seem petty and out of date to some, are so important: They are changes to our normal daily habits. They are little attempts to fine-tune our ears so that the voice of the Lord may come through loud and clear.
So how do we know when we are dialed in to the right frequency? First, we can easily differentiate static from an intelligible voice. It is so easy to simply bask in the static of our everyday lives. Many of us do this every day, as we putter around the house with the television droning on in the background. Many of us also have all kinds of domestic details bouncing endlessly around in our heads. These day-to-day details are important and necessary, but do we also take a little time out each day to tune them out and tune the Lord in?
Once we have dialed away the static, do the words describe the action we came to hear? Notice I did not say “want to hear.” This is an important distinction – the real action versus the desired outcome. When we tune our radios to hear our favorite sports teams in action, we do not always get to hear about them winning. Sometimes they lose. If we are true fans, we still listen anyway – they are our teams, and we are their fans.
This is what drove Jeremiah nuts: the people listened to prophets only if they told them what they wanted to hear. If the prophets told them something they did not want to hear, the people tuned them out. They did not “listen.”
So this is a great opportunity for us to take a look at our Lenten observances. Are they helping us tune in to the voice of the Lord? If not, it may be time to tweak them a little. Don’t give them up, maybe nudge them one direction or another until the voice of the Lord comes through loud and clear.
And when we are tuned in, are we in it until the final buzzer, win or lose?
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