Three Ways to Hear His Voice

He taught them as one having authority. (Mark 1:22)

From of old, the Almighty promised that a voice would ring out which would carry the divine guarantee of truth. He made this promise to a people like us: a people seeking the Promised Land, needing to hearken to the divine voice in order to find our way.

What if no voice of truth guided us? What if the only source for truth was me myself?

That would be a sketchy situation. I would want to have one set of rules when I was in one mood, and a different set when I was in another. Hungry? One set of rules. Angry? A different set. Eyes fixed on a toy I want to play with? Another set. Life without the voice of God would leave a person fat, friendless, and maxed-out with credit-card debt.

Thank God, then, that He speaks to us. With authority. He speaks to us with the authority of the final judge, before Whom we will have to answer for everything done or left undone.

The question, then, is: How do we hear this Voice? Let’s take for granted that the best policy always involves obeying God. In any particular situation, how do we hear the command which we are to obey?

Let’s consider three possible answers to this question. All three answer it well. But all three also need some reflecting upon.

Answer #1. “How do I submit myself to the divine will? I just use common sense.” In other words, when I need to make a decision, I think the thing through as best I can; I avoid making decisions based on unchecked emotions; I consult with others who can give me good advice; and I generally wind up doing what your average Joe would do.

Solid. Except for one problem. Didn’t the Lord Jesus say that we Christians serve as salt for this earth and light for this world? Didn’t He promise heaven to people whom the world hates? Didn’t He declare that He had come to set fire to the earth, to set son against father and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law?

Common sense generally leads us true. Except when it forgets that we have an uncommon vocation. Except when the moment calls for Christian heroism. Except when something hangs in the balance which the world does not understand.

Which brings us to Answer #2. “How do I hearken to the voice of God? I obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit.”

When I am in a state of grace, the Holy Spirit acts directly on my soul. The infinite divine Love inspires me, filling me with preternatural insight, knowledge, and understanding, and with wise, pious, and brave actions.

The holy mystics have led lives of complete abandonment to the divine will, resting in the Spirit through even the most arduous and complicated undertakings. Did Mother Teresa act with organizational genius, building a multi-national operation from nothing? “I just did what my Jesus told me to do.”

Beautiful. But: If I do not possess the bottomless holiness of a Mother Teresa, then I hardly have the right to chalk up every whim and fancy that crosses my mind to the Holy Spirit of God. A very fine line separates “The Holy Spirit told me” from “I make up my own rules.”

How do we draw that all-important line? This brings us to Answer #3. “How do I hear the voice of God? I study the teaching of the Church.”

The Lord does not call everyone to the heights of mysticism. But all of us can know the teaching of the Church and follow it.

In Her teaching, the Church gives us the “common sense” of the saints. The Church teaches us the practical and the tried-and-true–not for getting a good value on a new car, but for getting ourselves to heaven.

In some areas, the teaching of the Church strikes the common man of today as admirably wise. In others, it strikes him as practically insane. But rising above the zeitgeist makes a noble life. Consistently obeying the Church’s teaching allows us to live in accord with the great democracy of the holy dead.

But: I could study the teaching of the Church from dawn to dusk; I could memorize the Catechism and all the encyclicals since Leo XIII—but if I don’t have any common sense, and if I don’t follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the teaching of the Church won’t do me any good. The teaching must be applied to my particular case. It doesn’t apply itself.

Okay. So someone asks how we obey God, and we have three good answers–that are only good when we can give all three.

Four more rules of thumb: 1. Nothing has worse consequences than committing a sin. 2. The Lord never leaves a person in a situation where virtuous action is impossible.

While we were marching up to the Supreme Court on Monday, the White House released a Roe v. Wade-anniversary statement, promising to “reduce the need for abortion.”

Someone dwells in the dark here. There is no need for abortion; never has been and never will be. God always provides everyone with a possible course of action which is upright and true.

3. Each of us must obey his conscience. 4. Double-check difficult cases with a knowledgeable advisor. You can always count on the discretion of your parish priest, unworthy as he may be.

One thought on “Three Ways to Hear His Voice

  1. Father Mark,

    The next, vital, step: I’m always taken by the refrain to the Psalm (95, from Sunday the 29th), “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”



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