Sunday Reflection | The Living Voice of God - Saint John's Seminary
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Sunday Reflection | The Living Voice of God

January 13, 2024

We know that God speaks to each and every person He creates. By speaking the world into being, the Lord desired to begin a conversation with us. The divine word of creation summons an answering word from us who have been brought into existence by Him. In prayer and praise we respond to this invitation. In prayer and praise we take part in a divine dialogue that renews us at the deepest root of our word-based being.

The trouble is that we cannot enter into this saving exchange if we do not hear the voice of Him who made us and continues to call us.

This is where Sacred Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium of the Church come to our aid. By them, the living voice of God continues to address the whole human family. In His revealed word, the Lord makes known to us His inner life, His will, and His plan of salvation to us. This is a wonderful gift. However, it is also the case that the Lord speaks to us personally. Nested within His plan of salvation for the world is His plan of salvation for you and me as individuals. He speaks to us of this plan all the time. Yet, we are mostly deaf to it. Sometimes we may sense He’s trying to tell us something, but we can’t really make it out. Distractions get in the way. We may second guess ourselves. Am I just imagining things?

Few readings in all Sacred Scripture are more helpful at attuning our inner ear to the Lord’s voice than our selection today from the First Book of Samuel. The way Samuel learns to recognize the Lord’s voice is our way as well. The episode offers us three practical insights that we can act upon to open our hearts to hear the voice of God speaking to us.

  1. We find Samuel resting in the temple of the Lord at night. This setting is significant. In order to hear the voice of God, we need to seek our rest in His presence. Moreover, we need quiet stillness as we sit before Him. This setting is as near to us as the closest Catholic church. Go when there’s nothing happening at your church, sometime between Masses and scheduled devotions. Simply rest in the stillness before Christ in the tabernacle. Only after we become accustomed to the silent presence of our Lord will we be ready to hear Him when He speaks.
  2. Act decisively on your best guess at what God is telling you. It’s important to note that Samuel misunderstands the voice of God. He thinks it is Eli that is talking to him. He acts on this misunderstanding again and again, despite the awkwardness of repeatedly waking Eli. This is a wonderful corrective to our tendency to demand perfect clarity before acting on the inspirations God gives us. The story of Samuel shows us that certainty in understanding God’s voice only follows from our attempt to obey that voice, no matter how many mistakes we make along the way. Waiting for perfect clarity before acting will get us nowhere. God will steer us on the right path, but we are a lot easier to steer when we are moving, even if we’re moving in the wrong direction.
  3. Reach out for guidance from older brothers or sisters in the Faith. Samuel finally realizes that it is the Lord speaking to Him because of the intervention of the elderly priest, Eli. It is Eli who teaches Samuel how to respond rightly to the Lord when He calls the next time. We need similar guidance. If we want to grow as attentive listeners to Christ, we require guides and teachers in the spiritual life. Find someone who spends serious time in prayer and ask them for help. Read books by the great saints and spiritual masters of the Church. Our struggles and confusions are rarely original. Others have been there before us and are ready to direct us.

The story of Samuel’s call ends with the line that “the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” Our words and deeds, like Samuel’s, will only be as effective as their rootedness in the words of God addressed to us in the hidden chambers of our hearts. The Lord is indeed with us. The only question is whether we are willing to be with Him, to rest with Him, and to answer Him when He calls.

Rev. Thomas Macdonald

University of Massachusetts - Amherst, B.A.

Saint John's Seminary, B.Phil.

Pontifical Gregorian University, S.T.B.; S.T.L.; S.T.D.

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