Spirituality for Today – July 2013 – Volume 17, Issue 12

Getting The Message: When God Calls, Be Sure To Listen

Rev. Msgr.Frank Wissel

With so many telephones, pagers, fax machines, emails, and cellphones, we have become a culture of constant communication. The television not only has over 100 channels or more, but the news networks now double and triple streams of information beamed across the screen, causing us to multi-task just to watch TV. With all this communication, you would think we would be more connected to each other, across the room, or across the globe.

A photo of a phone on a beach

But, sadly, this is not the case. The increase of high tech has made us lose the ability of high touch. It is not unusual to see two people sitting at a restaurant table, having met for lunch to spend time with each other, but talking on cellphones or texting. Similarly, families do not speak much to each other, but they retreat into their separate rooms to stare at separate computer terminals, or listen to music and TV on separate ear phones. The proliferation of communication devices and talk overload makes it ever more rare for us to actually talk to someone, and not just their answering machine or voicemail or email.

And all of this noise threatens real communication between lovers, families and friends because we have lost our way in the art of real talking and listening. Real communication takes time, patience and some quiet peaceful space. Who can find that anymore?

But there is another relationship, and other communication frequency, that is threatened these days; and that is our ability to communicate with God. In fact we have the ability to hear from God. How does God call on us today? Or for some, the question is this: Does God call on us today? And if so, how does this happen? Occasionally, one will hear someone speak of their sense of "call" from God. You may be perplexed by this notion. Did God actually speak audibly to that person? Or did God leave a message on their machine? What is the "call" of God, and how would God talk to you and me today?

First, our awareness and understanding of God's call comes gradually over time. Listen; can you hear it? All around us hundreds of messages are flying through the air. Cellphone conversations, televisions messages, radio signals, are all around us. Invisible to the naked eye; inaudible to the human ear. But just because we cannot see or hear these messages does not mean they do not exist.

It makes you wonder how many other messages we miss.

How many of us can attest to the sorrowful awareness that our children, our spouse, or our best friend has been trying to tell us something, but we were just not paying attention? They tried to speak to us at a deeper level of the heart, a language of sorrows and joys, but we were stuck at the surface level of grocery lists, stock market reports and golf handicaps. They might have said, "I am lonely and afraid." And we replied, "Uh huh, what's for dinner?" We have all missed vital communication before.

Sure. But if we are alert at all, we gradually learn from these mistakes, and we learn to pay closer attention to the subtle and deeper messages around us. Our relationship health depends on this emerging wisdom. But just as we can learn to listen to each other, we can learn to listen more carefully for the whisper of God's voice too. Of course God could shout if he wanted to do so, but that does not seem to be his way.

There is a Gospel text where the disciples who eventually followed Jesus did not immediately spring to mature awareness of his mission and identity. First they heard John the Baptist call Jesus "Lamb of God," and then they asked Jesus to follow him to where he was staying that day. Perhaps they originally thought of discipleship as a mere trip for the day, but certainly not a lifetime. Later they began to perceive that he might be the Messiah, but it took years to learn just what "Messiah" truly meant. Like us, the first disciples did not spring to maturity instantly. It took time, trial and error, a series of discarded older understandings and presumptions, until the full truth of Jesus began to emerge in their consciousness.

We are on the same journey. We must grow over the years in our spiritual understanding. If a person who is 50 years old and has not changed their mind or learned something new since they were 20, that person has wasted 30 years of their life. Even so, learn to pay attention to the whisper of God that surrounds you.

Practice listening, open your eyes and ears, be still, create quiet, unhurried time, pray, and soon you will sense God speaking all around you, and from deep within you.

God often uses people around us to speak. The person through whom God speaks to us may be a saint, a revered writer, a church leader or a priest. But it also may be a parent, a coach or a teacher.

This voice could even come through a child or a song on the radio or a line from a novel. If we are listening, truly believing God seeks to speak to us, and wants to call us to active discipleship, we will begin to sense his voice in many places and through many voices.

And what will God say? Just the same he said to those first disciples so long ago. He will say, "Follow me." And when he calls, we will be ready to drop our fishing nets, leave our old masters, and take the greatest journey of a lifetime.