Listening to the Voice of Jesus

            “The footsteps of those who bring good news is a welcome sound. Not everyone, of course listens to the Good News …So Faith comes from what is preached, and what is preached comes from the word of Christ.”

Romans 10:15-17

In today’s culture we have completely changed what “sound” means to us. We are saturated with sounds on all sides. There are sounds that beckon us, warn us, and cajole us. We have sounds that demand us, soothe us, and annoy us.

Sound is present in our lives in all places at all times.  We have become so conditioned by sound that we are sometimes immune to sounds that desperately need our attention.

It’s a wonder  we have any hearing left.  Then again, maybe we don’t, especially in the ways that are most important.

Walkers and joggers have buds stuffed in their ears.  With the iPod turned up the danger of an attacker is imperceptible and identifying a vehicle that did not stop is impossible. In the movie theater, conversation on a device has taken precedent over the screen. In houses of worship and houses of art, audiences attend with devices active and regularly interrupt prayer or music for the “sound” of technology.

People take their iPhones to bed and willingly give up quality sleep for the sake of responding to the sound of a device.

In many ways, sound has become our enemy as well as a new definition of slavery!   We have all but given up the idea of paying attention to things like a shy giggle, a child’s voice, a singing bird, the rustle of leaves, a sweet breeze, or blissful silence.   What else are we missing?

One of the most minimalized concepts in the story of Paul on the road to Damascus is the role of sound in the story.  We are dazzled by the light, the fuss, the fall, his blindness and his spectacular conversion.

Sound was actually the most important part of the story.  Paul’s ability to see things was completely cancelled. His encounter with Jesus was totally dependent on his ability to listen.

As a matter of fact, scripture tells us that Paul never even had a glimpse of Jesus.  He only heard his voice – yet that one encounter changed Paul’s life for eternity.  What could have been so stunning in the sound of a voice with no face?

This scripture shows us that the truth is indisputable.  When our soul hears the truth it cannot help but respond.  Sometimes the response might be denial or anger or frustration, but there is something deep in us that responds, whether we like it or not.

For Paul the sound of an unidentifiable voice changed his life and the life of the world.  What role does listening play in your own personal spiritual journey?

Is it a must that you have some sound on in your home when you are alone?  When you take your prayer time do you make sure there is silence?  If that’s not possible, do you find a spot like an adoration chapel regularly?  Can you identify a time and place where you exercise the virtue of silence?

If you are not praying in silence somewhere, sometime, your ability to hear the Lord is greatly diminished or never gets developed at all.  Could it be that those folks who lament that they pray and never hear from the Lord never offer him and opportunity to talk while they listen?

As we grow in the spiritual journey our ability to hear the Father gets sharper and more discerning.  You learn to hear God is a variety of ways.  If you’re lucky you might hear Him call your name. When the Lord speaks to you, your heart knows that it’s Him.

A word from the Lord never stirs anger, anxiety, stress or any other negative emotion or fear.  Something in you just knows that it’s the Lord speaking.  If you’re really not sure about what you heard, the most reliable check is to see if it is in line with scripture, the Magisterium, and/or tradition.  If any of these is contradicted, what you heard is not a teaching from the Father. These days, lots of people claim to have “prophecies” from God.  The ones who are teaching all to be very afraid and hoard food are NOT from God.

Hearing God in our lives is a vital part of the New Evangelization, but speaking with knowledge is the completion.  In this month’s issue of Magnificat (September 2012), Father Robert Barron points out:

“Immersed in the concerns of the world, preoccupied with the quest for wealth, pleasure, power and honor, many today no longer hear the Word of God, and as a result, are inarticulate in their religious speech. …The task of the New Evangelization is none other than this reconnection of the secular world to God through Jesus Christ.  It is the introduction of the Word made flesh to those who cannot hear and cannot speak.”

Isn’t it interesting that even though Paul was knocked off his horse and laying in the dirt there is no record of him expressing fear?  His reply is almost comical: “Who are you, sir?”

Paul knew that if he was knocked off his horse with a blinding flash, most likely, the person who accomplished that deserved some respect!

What would you have done? Would you have been afraid, cowered, lashed out, screamed for help or missed an opportunity?  Paul chose none of the above. He simply asked a question and listened.

If you have let go of the idea of being still and listening for God because you are busy, stressed, pre-occupied, or have responsibilities, give that a second or third thought.  We all want to be more spiritual and balanced, to be in closer touch with God to accomplish great things for Him.

Paul was ready to do great things for his religion by killing and capturing infidels (Christians).  After listening to the voice of Jesus just once, though, he wound up changing the world forever.

Copyright © 2012, Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn holds a Master’s in Education from Saint Xavier University. Most recently she completed Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies from The Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. This recent degree was part of a “retirement project” after teaching for 35 years. She has also worked as a spiritual director, music minister,council member and prayer team warrior. Kathryn has a deep interest in catechesis for the people in the pews. As a “sort of” convert she finds the wisdom of the Church a source for encouragement, joy and survival in a world not sure of anything. Her writing has appeared in diocesan publications and on-line sites, most recently for Zenit. To learn more about Kathryn check out her thinking at:">

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