Sweet Sounds

“The footsteps of those who bring good news is a welcome sound.  Faith comes from what is preached, and what is preached comes from the word of Christ.” (Rm 10: 15, 17).   In our society, today we have completely changed what “sound” means to us.  We are saturated with sounds on all sides in a way that has never occurred before. There are sounds that beckon us, warn us, and cajole us. We have sounds that demand us, sooth 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 need our attention.  It’s a wonder that we have any hearing left.  Maybe we don’t, in the ways that are most important.

It almost seems like we have taken our sense of hearing and conformed it in a manner that was never meant to be.  Walkers and joggers have buds stuffed in their ears.  With the I-pod “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 I-phones to bed and willingly give up quality sleep for the sake of responding to the sound of a device.  This is 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, and 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 that sound plays in the story.  We are dazzled by the light, the fuss, the fall, his blindness and his spectacular conversion.  Putting all of the “dazzlers” aside, realize that sound was actually the most important part of the story.  Remember in this turn of events, all of 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, the scripture tells us that Paul never even had a glimpse of Jesus.  He only heard his voice in one brief exchange.   Yet that one encounter in Paul’s life changed the world and its people 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 as well as a living thing.  When our soul hears the “truth” it cannot help but respond.  Sometimes the response might be denial. anger or frustration. None the less there is something deep in us that responds, like it or not. What role does listening play in your own personal spiritual journey?  Exercise a little “self honesty” here.  Is it a must that you have some sound on in your home when you are alone?  When do 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?  These may seem contrary to the above, but the truth is that if you are not praying in silence somewhere, sometime, your ability to hear the Lord is greatly diminished or never gets developed at all.  I’m sure you have heard people lament that they pray and pray and never hear from the Lord.  Could it be that those folks never offer him an opportunity to talk while they listen?

As we grow in the spiritual journey our ability to listen to the Father gets sharper and more discerning.  You learn to hear God is a variety of ways.  If you are lucky you might hear Him call your name.  I’m seventy and have had that experience twice.  More likely you will develop an ability to hear Him in your “spirit”.  Like Paul, when the Lord speaks to you, your heat “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 that are teaching to be very afraid and hoard food are NOT from God.  Isn’t it interesting that even though Paul was knocked off his horse and laying in the dirt there no record of him expressing fear.  His reply is almost comical: “Who are you, sir?”

Despite the fact that Paul immediately responded to the voice from the light He is given no “credit for good behavior”.  As a matter of fact, he is commanded to remain in the dark and experience total loss of sight and light for three more days (Acts 9). There is no question that this passage teaches us that the skill of listening for and to God is as significant and maybe even more important than what we see.  Sight can be a deceiving but listening is a different skill that requires a more intense kind of concentration.  For a long time, I was a serious voice student.  One of the many things that I loved about my wonderful teacher was that if I called her and spoke only one word she immediately knew it was me.  God hears us, knows and loves us.  Even if we are asked to remain in the dark for a while don’t abandon your dialog with Him.  It’s your “fail safe”.  No matter what, He always knows it’s you!

 Copyright© 2017, 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: www.atravelersview.org">ATravelersView.org.

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