DISCERNING THE VOICE OF GOD
“My sheep hear my voice; I know them.” (John 10:27)
Christianity is not a set of ideas or philosophy; it is a relationship with someone who has a voice. It is a relationship with a person; with Jesus. Hearing the living voice of Jesus is a very important thing in our lives. That is why St. Paul says that faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17).
In our world today, there is a cacophony of voices, representing different voices. Whose voice do you follow? The social media is very loud. So many people, especially the young ones are confused on whom to follow. Listening is very important.
In the gospel of today, Jesus says that, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them.” When you are faced with a moral dilemma, one who is inspired by the Spirit of God will be able to say, ‘that’s not the shepherd’, ‘that’s not Jesus’ voice’ or say, “this is the voice of God, and so on. This is because he/she hears the voice of God and is able to discern His voice. Jesus also listens. He knows his sheep.
Having the ability to listen to God, to people around us is very important. We all appreciate people who listen to us whenever we speak. We appreciate people who listen to us, who give us their attention when we have something to say. We appreciate even more those who not only listen to us when we speak but who pick up the signals we are sending out even when we are not speaking. These are people who, because they know us so well, are attuned to the various non-verbal ways that we communicate. The gospels suggest that Jesus had this ability to hear people even when they were not speaking. More than once the evangelists state that Jesus knew the thoughts of someone or of some group. The fourth evangelist, John, expresses this quality of Jesus most succinctly when he remarks that Jesus ‘needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone’
If Jesus knew us in this way – all the things in our hearts, even before we communicate them – it then means that he is the only one who can truly understand us. In life, we always seek for that one person who really understands us, even when people misunderstand us. Jesus is that one person. It is often said that, “to know all is to forgive all. If Jesus truly knows why we do what we do and knows us inside out, then, he can forgive a great deal.
It is only by listening to the Lord, as he listens to us, that we will come to know him, as he knows us. Listening to the Lord, in that deep sense, is an important aspect of what it means to be his follower. Prayerful listening to the Lord is part of what we are called to as his disciples. We often think of prayer as communicating with the Lord, speaking to him about what is important to us, in silence or aloud. That is certainly one form of prayer. An equally important form of prayer is the prayer of listening. We sit in the Lord’s presence and we listen to him, perhaps with a passage of Scripture before us. The Lord is always communicating with us and we need a listening heart to receive that communication. Many people who pray a lot, and whose prayer consists in praying set prayers, come to the discovery that this form of prayer no longer sits easily with them. That may be a sign that they are being called into a more listening kind of prayer, a prayer of presence, if you like, where we are present to the Lord who is present to us. In any deep relationship, there comes a time when words are no longer all that necessary. It is enough for each person to be present to the other. The silence, the deep listening, between those who have been happily married for many years may seem strange to some people, but to the couple in question it is all that is needed.
Fr. Charles Chidiebere Mmaduekwe