Be honest now. Do you hear voices? Not just one voice but a great many voices? Actually, before we venture to answer that question, we may want to inquire what is meant by “hearing voices”. Who of us, when confronted with a choice for good or for ill, doesn’t hear our mother say “Don’t go that way?” Perhaps we hear a spouse say, “What a great idea, go with it!” Even though it is a great idea, we may hear another voice say “We cannot afford to choose that at this time.” If we are honest, we are being bombarded with voices all the time moving us to choose one way or another, think this or that, speak in one manner or another or act in a particular way. The voices come to us from a multitude of directions and we must decide which we will listen to and which we will take to heart and allow to influence us.
In the Second Book of Samuel, we are witness to the political convention of the tribes of Israel. After years of civil tensions and conflicts, David has fought to the point of bringing them all together so that all voices were able to be heard. The author wants us to understand clearly that God’s voice is being heard in the conversation as well. Finally, all the voices converge on one possibility – David should be anointed King of a united Jewish state. God’s choice here is confirmed in the dialogue and David becomes King of Israel. The voices were heard, accepted and what was said became fact.
In contrast, Mark relates a moment when contrary voices are heard. Jesus is accused of performing His good deeds by the power of Satan. Jesus’ voice clearly lays out the inherent contradictions in such a claim. How can a house divided against itself continue to stand and prosper? Healings and forgiveness which form the essence of Jesus’ ministry are the exact opposite of evil powers. A single instance of healing or forgiveness clearly manifests the reality that the powers for good will defeat the power of evil. Jesus then gives voice to the underlying reality of this moment. To claim such a distortion of reality – to say that works which are obviously the works of God – are evil is a sin against the Holy Spirit. Such a person has listened to a voice that says stay out of the light and remain in the darkness. Refuse to acknowledge contradictory voices and remain deaf to all but death, darkness and destruction. Such a sin is unforgiveable not because God’s forgiveness is limited but because such a person has turned a deaf ear to the voice which calls him to salvation.
Our scriptures today invite us to consider which of the great many voices speaking to us in our faith, in our Church, in our country, in our way of life and in the world reflect the values of the mind and heart of Jesus. It is our baptismal challenge to allow ourselves to be conformed to the mind and heart of Jesus. This can seem to be a relatively simple review of life for us. However, in today’s circumstances, we are contending with a great many more voices than ever before. There is a cacophony of voices vying for our attention and our allegiance. Some voices say we are number 1, we are better than others; we deserve the cream while others are lucky to get rain water. Some voices say some groups of people are more desirable than others. Some voices say we should shun strangers, refuse them dignity and respect when speaking of them, and concentrate solely on our self-interest. Other voices remind us to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, provide care for the sick, and afford every person his / her dignity regardless of color, religion or ethnic origin. Still other voices encourage us to keep our heads down, stay out of such confusing issues and focus only on taking care of self and family. The voices abound from every circle of life. Today, Second Samuel and Mark invite us to consider how we are doing in responding to these voices. How are we doing in measuring these voices against the teachings and the deeds of Jesus in the Gospels? Essentially, today, we are asked to review our listening to the voice of Jesus, our accepting the message of Jesus and our making the voice of Jesus the foundation of our speech and our choices in life.
Fr. Richard Burke, CP, is a member of St. Paul of the Cross Province. He lives at St. Ann’s Monastery in Scranton, Pennsylvania.