On Hearing Voices . . .
“The Human Voice is the most perfect instrument of all” ~ Arvo Pärt
Voices are heard in today’s 1st Reading (Acts 11:1-18) and Gospel (John 10:11-18) and as we reflect upon these passages, it begs the critical question: In a world with so much incessant noise, one wherein those with the largest Twitter following would seemingly and rather inexplicably drive the dialogue, which voice(s) do we listen to? How do we even discern the voice of truth versus the voices of delusion?
As today’s 1st Reading was proclaimed at Mass this morning (Acts 11:1-18) I couldn’t help but notice the similarities in the objections and roadblocks that Peter and the Apostles were grappling with to those that Jesus faced at every turn during his ministry. Just as Jesus was relentlessly badgered, second-guessed and criticized for healing people on the Sabbath or dining with and subsequently evangelizing the tax collectors and prostitutes in his midst, the Apostles are scrutinized today for entering the home of uncircumcised people in an effort to bring them the Good News. Already mightily equipped with healing power and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, it’s interesting to see how our Lord chooses to reveal himself to Peter, thus inspiring his actions in Jerusalem on this day.
“I was at prayer in the City of Joppa, when in a trance I had vision,” Peter explains to his detractors, going on to explain in detail this heavenly countenance. “Something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered from the sky by its four corners, and it came to me.” He goes on to say “Looking intently into it, I observed and saw the four-legged animals of the earth, the wild beasts, the reptiles, and the birds of the sky.” he a, him to ‘Get up, slaughter and eat.’ It was then that Peter himself reverted back to his belief system, promptly replying to this mysterious voice “Certainly not, sir, because nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.”
The voice replies “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.” This voice would utter these words three times, a number that would reverberate with Peter during his other tectonic moments (Luke 22:54-62 & John 21:15-17). and just like that, everything was drawn back up into the sky from which it came.
Inspired by the voice in this vision and remaining open to the call of God by way of the Holy Spirit, Peter was emboldened to step out in faith. It was this perceptivity of the Spirit that galvanized and emboldened him, ultimately culminating in the conversion of the uncircumcised and Jesus’ decision to choose Peter as the “Rock” upon which his Church would be built (Matthew 16:18).
“I am the good shepherd,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel. “I know my sheep and mine know me.” (John 10:14). There is a resonance when Christ’s voice is heard precisely because the whole world has been wired to hear it. “The truth,” as my Pastor is always quick to point out, “...is written on our hearts.”
We come to hear the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd through the cultivation of a vibrant and rich prayer life. Certainly we hear Jesus’ voice through the Gospels, all throughout Scripture in actuality, but in the meticulously recorded stories that recount Jesus’ 33 or so years on this Earth. He speaks to us through his words and actions in these passages. Proof of his devotion to us for instance is no more evident then in today’s Gospel, wherein Jesus reminds us that “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.”
Unlike many of the modern-day TV Evangelists, Jesus made his way from town-to-town by way of the soles of his sandals, not private luxury jets. This is important to remember as we discern the voices of truth in our lives.
One other powerful way to hear the voice of Jesus is through the daily recitation of the Holy Rosary https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/One-Hail-Mary-at-a-Time. Pope Pius XI once said of this most sacred of devotionals that “the Rosary is a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight and to keep oneself from sin. If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors.”
In addition to the divine graces that Pope Pius XI speaks of, we certainly hear the voice of Jesus and Our Mother Mary every time we enter into the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous Mysteries, the moments that speak to and define the heart and soul of our faith. Of the Rosary, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said “It is the best therapy for these distraught, unhappy, fearful, and frustrated souls, precisely because it involves the simultaneous use of three powers: the physical, the vocal, and the spiritual.” Through the Rosary, our voices unite with the voice of truth.
Saint Louis de Montfort, of whom I have come to realize is virtually impossible not to quote whenever writing about the Rosary, boldly states that “Never will anyone who says the Rosary every day become a formal heretic or be led astray by the devil.” Praying the Rosary, plain and simple, keeps us living in truth. It keeps our ears tuned to the one true faith, a faith rooted in Jesus, our only true path to the Father (John 14:6).
“Lord, recline our ear to your voice, the voice of truth, so that we may come to know you, love you and serve you in profound and life saving ways.” ~ Amen