As we move further into Lent our scriptures present two questions. From the prophet Jeremiah we are asked how well we are listening to God’s voice. In the gospel Jesus is unmasking the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees who attribute his power over demons to the power of the devil rather than God. After demolishing their arguments, he concludes by asking us on whose side we are. Do we stand with him? Do we help gather the lambs of the flock?
How hard is it to listen to God? From my own experience I have found two ways God speaks to me. The first is in prayer and reflection. The greatest prayer we accomplish is the Eucharist. A full and active participation engages my mind and heart. I am moved by the proclamation of the scripture and its application to my life in the homily. Then I am moved to awe and worship and thanksgiving as the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. The moment of Communion is a moment of love. Jesus and I are one. Personal reflection, or what is called meditation, is also a way to converse intimately with the Lord. We need that peaceful and quiet time for the Spirit to work in our hearts.
The second way we listen to God is by how we respond to our reading of the "signs of the times" and to the invitation of those around us. Reading the "signs of the time" give general direction to my life. For instance if I am aware of the homeless in my community then I will respond to appeals for help. I will support laws that aim to eradicate this problem. I will be concerned that the police treat the homeless with the dignity. Maybe I will serve at a soup kitchen. Next we have people with whom we are friends, neighbors, and family members. They ask for our attention and concern when they battle unemployment, deal with sickness, face the weaknesses of old age, and on and on.
If we really listen to God then we have answered Jesus’ question. We will stand with him and by our actions gather the lambs into his flock.
Fr. Michael Hoolahan, C.P. is on the staff of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.