Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Can You Hear the Bridegroom’s Voice?

Today, the Holy Father during an in-flight interview to Portugal, discussed the Fatima visions and the need for the Church to return to the basics.  In his discussion on the apparitions, he provided a wonderful teaching moment about how God speaks to His people and in particular the locutions of Mary.  This is a very important lesson that all of us should take to heart.  He said,

…[T]here is a supernatural impulse which doesn’t come simply from someone’s imagination but from the supernatural reality of the Virgin Mary. That impulse enters into a subject, and is expressed according to the possibilities of the subject, who is determined by his or her historic situation. The supernatural impulse is translated, so to speak, according to the subject’s possibilities for imagining it and expressing it. In this expression formed by the subject, there are always hidden possibilities to go beyond, to go deeper. Only with time can we see all the depth which was, so to speak, dressed in this vision, which was possible for the concrete person.

The Lord always speaks with clarity though it is always interpreted within a context of the individual’s experience and understanding. So, our ability to understand what the Lord said can increase over time as we continue to grow in grace and wisdom.  A perfect example of this is St. Francis’ interpretation when our Lord spoke from the San Damiano cross commanding him to, “Rebuild my Church.”  St. Francis immediately began gathering stones and collecting materials to rebuild the church of Our Lady of the Angels.  Only upon completion did St. Francis realize that our Lord was thinking a little more on the global scale.

Many times we beat ourselves up because we do not understand what the Lord is saying to us – we have but an inkling.  The fact is that we need to struggle with the words and let them reveal themselves to us within our own experience.  More to the point we grasp at things and want them immediately. We seem to live in the illusion that we are in control and our lives are our own (See Romans 14:7)

Hearing the Lord in our prayer is or should be normative.  That does not mean that He, the Blessed Virgin, angels or saints will be appearing to us in a vision or apparition (yes, there is a difference) but don’t discount it- it’s not impossible or even improbable.  Most of us hear our Lord through the liturgy of the day in Holy Scripture (Divine Liturgy or the Divine Office).  We need to practice the ancient art of…listening, reflecting, and then responding.  Everyone is in a hurry…the Lord is not.

Many individuals that I speak to claim they cannot hear the Lord in their own prayer time.  This saddens me greatly.  Most of the time it is because we treat prayer as an scheduled activity rather than a conversation.  The greater challenge in our day is what occupies our hearts.  The Lord speaks to our hearts.  In order to hear Him, we must remove all the background noise and those impediments to listening.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Slow-down: The Lord is not on our time-table.  As a good co-worker once told me, “Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part.” Like every relationship it needs to be cultivated. Our Lord does not also do the “conversations on the go.” He is not McDonalds. Free up time to relax and make time to reflect.
  • Television: Turn it off. All I have to say is, “Garbage in garbage out.”
  • Music: Turn it down and think first.  Music continues on in our heart even after it has been turned off. Time to detox and listen to it less. Most people use it as a sedative to ignore the challenges and struggles of the heart. Examine the author and the lyrics. Modern music tends to have a competing message (I understand Christopher West’s “twisted mystic” but we spend more energy untwisting than listening. Besides, that is how the Father speaks to him. We are not Christopher.).  It is only in the last 100 years that we have forgotten that music is a prayer and an expression of the musician’s life.
  • Start: Begin listening.  You will never hear Him if you do not make time.  Read along with the liturgical readings – the Church guarantees we will hear his voice in the daily readings. Also, does the Lord get your leftovers or your first-fruits.  Something to consider.

Mary should be our example.  Receptive, not rushing around, not needing to be in control.  She listened.  The Lord emphasized this to Martha after she complaimed about all she had to do,

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the better portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42-43)

As we continue to listen in prayer let us also not forget the admonition in Scripture,

If today you hear His voice harden not your heart. (Ps 95)

4 Responses to Can You Hear the Bridegroom’s Voice?

  1. Mrs. Nod says:

    Yes, but “Martha” needs to clean her house and do the laundry, and keep Nib from “killing” himself. Can you just see me explaining to God how, after HE saved Nib through open heart surgery, that I let him fall down and break his neck. It is great that he climbs — now if I can just get him to stop it :)

    • Q says:

      Here is a thought when this was asked of Fr. Father Martin. The early church averaged about four hours of prayer a day – not broken up into sections by the way. This was among all their other duties of life in antiquity. It did require sacrifice and it did require discipline. A few things they did not have to clean the house: vacuum cleaner, washer/drier, cleansers, etc. We could probably say that it took much longer amidst the fields, daily going to the market and managing the house. So, I think we probably waste a good deal of time. Fr. Francis also said that anthropology and a look at early documents show that it took about 1.5-2 hours before they could enter into the Lord’s presence – without radio, television, etc.

      Do I think with modernity that it has become “faster” to enter into His presence? No. Do I think we have less time? Yes. Is it our own fault with all the activities we want everyone to participate in? Most definitely. How do we change that? Commit to less and be at home more. Is it easy? Nope. Do I practice what I preach? I try. Am I suggesting four hours of prayer a day? No, but it is a good perspective to keep.

  2. Mrs. Nod says:

    Ouch! Good reprimand. I knew I was being a smart _____ . I intended to come back an give a serious comment (after I read that bloody adventure story called Maccabees).

    I’ve been pondering prayer and relationship. The instinctive desire to ask someone obviously holy to pray for a special intention (this is a generic example). “Feeling” that his or her prayer is more likely to get a response than mine. The “Martha” in me struggles to think if I pray hard enough or long enough HE will grant the request. But the reality is that when HE grants miraculous answers to various saints in our history, it is not because they prayed harder than everyone else, it is because of the shared love RELATIONSHIP between God and the saint.

    I cannot remember whether it was St. Faustina or St. Theresa the Little Flower who was sitting in an infirmary knitting. She asked God to give her 1 soul for each knit “stitch.” She told HIM that since HE confined her to the infirmary and would not let her do harder work/penance for souls, HE should give her a soul for each 1 knit. HE gave them to her. [Now I’d run out and learn knitting, if I thought it would get my prayers answered.]

    RELATIONSHIP. It is all about the RELATIONSHIP. Lectio Divina opens and expands that relationship. It just takes the investment of time (and patience — this virtue that my children keep showing me I lack).

    Anyway God bless you. I could not let this one pass without comment because you quoted “the dreaded” Martha verse.

    • Q says:

      Not meant to be a reprimand. You said what most of us think. I think where we need to make the logical jump is that prayer and relationship are synonymous. We always hear that our “lives should become a prayer” and that we should “preach and use words if we have to.” Both are fantastic quotes from St. Francis of Assisi who by attaining Transforming Union his life did become a prayer. The saints that exhort us to do this also spent multiple hours in prayer.

      The “preach and use words if necessary” is part of a larger text. The context was best said by Deacon Dosier today, “I recall that Saint Francis of Assisi once said that a preacher who fails to live according to the Word he preaches has been killed by the letter of the law while failing to penetrate to its very spirit. To preach is a grave responsibility, and we should use words only when necessary.” Here too it is about relationship.

      My greatest struggle is impatience. The Lord will speak and act when he is good and ready, “Our God is in heaven, whatever He wills, He does.” (Psalm 115: 3) I am getting better but it is a slow process. The other struggle I have is remember that the grace of today is worthless tomorrow. The Lord meets us in the here and now. Whatever grace He gives today cannot be “invested” and saved for a rainy day. We need to remember that we are helpless and every day “His grace is sufficient” – just for that day.

      The Martha/Mary selection is one of my favorite verses – Only one thing is needful.

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