6th Sunday of Easter. May 26, 2019
Acts 15:1-2,22-29; Rev 21:10-14,22-23; Jn 14:23-29
Listening to God in today’s world
A priest drew loud cheers from the audience of graduating college students when he ended his homily at a recent baccalaureate Mass with these words, “I love you three thousand.” I was one of the few in the Church that did not cheer because I was utterly clueless about what that phrase meant. Someone explained to me later that it was one of the oft-repeated line in the movie, Avengers: End game.
We sure do know our movies. We know all the latest news around the world, whether they are relevant or not. We know all the trending events and hashtags currently in use and all that they signify. Thanks to the internet and our globalized world, it is so easy for us to access information at the click of a mouse.
All that is good and nice. But how many of us know what God is saying to each of us at the present moment? How many of us can clearly discuss God’s unique words of hope, courage, healing, and challenge to us based on our own unique history, conditions and temperaments?
But does God really speak to us individually and collectively? Yes, He certainly does.
Jesus attests that the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, speaks to us constantly. The Father is speaking to us constantly, “The words that you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.” The Father speaks to us continuously through Jesus Christ in a way that is radically different from before the Incarnation of the Word, “In many and various ways God spoke to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days He has spoken to us to us by a Son, through whom He created the world.”(Heb 1:1-4) Jesus Himself is constantly speaking to us, “Whoever loves me will keep my words.” The Spirit too is speaking to us constantly, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” God is indeed speaking to us constantly. But are we constantly listening to God?
Jesus states clearly that God comes to dwell in us and bestow on us deep inner joy when we listen to Him and obey Him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” God’s word to us is more than mere information to be cheered about; His word is a loving invitation to inner joy, a joy from the heart by virtue of the indwelling presence of the Triune God.
Thus inner joy is not automatic; but our joy depends on whom we choose to listen to the most in this life and whose words influence our choices, attitudes, and decisions the most. God has made us and invites us to seek for this inner joy and not the joy that comes from the world i.e. a joy that depends on our exterior circumstances in life, “Not as the world gives (peace) do I give to you.” Such worldly joy is ephemeral, erratic, fleeting, easily lost, and unsatisfying.
When we choose to listen to what is not God, or to what does not come from God, or what does not lead us to God, our hearts become troubled and afraid. This is the case of the early Church divided on the issue of circumcision. There was being circulated in the Church a message that did not come from God, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practices, you cannot be saved.” The heralds of such message did so “without the mandate of the Apostles,” thereby “upsetting the Gentile Christians with their message and disturbing their peace of mind.”
The Apostles responded to this crises by listening to the voice of the Spirit that willed to dispense the Gentile Christians from the burden of the strictly Jewish practices. They phrased their response in these bold words, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond what is of necessity.” The Apostles did listen to the different parties in the debate but they listened most precisely to what the Holy Spirit was speaking in those moments of crises. Thus their final decision brought a great peace and joy to the Christian community.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God continues to speak in our lives and in the Church because He loves us constantly. He constantly inspires us to follow the path of inner joy and peace even as we face difficult moments and decisions. By His grace, we can have inner joy in the midst of life’s travails if we are ready to sincerely ask and respond to the question, “What is God’s loving invitation to me at this moment?”
There are three possible reasons why we do not listen to God’s words to us. First, God’s love has not really taken deep roots in our hearts. We will only listen to the one whom we know loves us most. We thus refuse to listen to God always because we think we or someone else loves us more than God does. When we doubt God’s love for us and think our desires for ourselves are better than His will for us, instead of saying, “Speak lord, your servant is listening,”(1Sam 3:10) we say to Him, “Listen, Lord, your servant is speaking.”
Secondly, we are reluctant to change and to grow in our love for Him. We easily settle for mediocrity, for the familiar and the comfortable. We harden our hearts towards Him because we know that His words always challenge us to mature in our love for Him in concrete ways. It is much safer not to listen to His challenging words.
Thirdly, we do not listen because we do not trust His promises completely but have settled for the earthly joys that come and go and leave us empty and frustrated. We do not have trust that the divine presence within us will bring us that inner joy that we long for the most.
Whatever our reason may be for hardening our hearts towards God’s words while we open our hearts to the world, we need the help of Mama Mary to teach us how to listen to God no matter our condition in life. Mary is the one who believed in God’s unconditional love for her completely, “Mary, you have found favor with God.”(Lk 1:30) She was ready to grow in her own love for Him by doing His will no matter how mysterious or costly it may be to her, “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.” She trusted completely in God’s promises to her, “For with God nothing will be impossible.”(Lk 1:37)
The only time that Mary gave instruction to us in the Scriptures is when she said, “Do whatever He (Jesus) tells you.” Imagine the confusion of the servants when the wine ran out. How many thoughts must have crossed their minds? Mary calmly and confidently led the servants and showed them the way to Jesus and she told them to listen to Him and to obey Him as she did. She continues to do the same thing to us today who love her as our Mother and who listen to her and depend on her as we should.
We are living in very confused and confusing times today. The world’s message is so alluring to our rebellious hearts and we are soaking it in with little or no deep reflection. Christians are even divided on many hot-button issues like homosexuality, “same-sex” marriage, abortion, immigration, etc. We listen to all these things and different opinions but how many of us ask, “What is God speaking to me at this very moment about all these?” Are we even aware that God has the only answer to all these problems and conflicts? How convinced are we that God’s answers are the only thing that allow Him to visit and dwell within us and fill us with inner joy? Are we Catholics – hierarchy, laity and religious – ready to live so that we can say about our final decisions in all things, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us?”
The Eucharist is always Good News – God in our midst, dwelling within us in our chaotic and noisy world. He is speaking to us constantly because His love for us is unceasing. Let us be the children of Mary who will let her speak to us and lead us to Jesus so that we can listen to God and obey Him just like she did and know that inner joy that this world cannot give or take away from us.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!