THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for March 28th, 2014
Friday of the Third Week of Lent
Liturgical texts here
JESUS said my sheep hear my voice. He did not say “some” sheep, but my sheep hear my voice. So why then, you may ask, do I not hear His voice? Today’s readings offer some reasons why.
I am the Lord your God: hear my voice… I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Hear, my people, and I will admonish you; O Israel, will you not hear me?” (Today’s Psalm)
Meribah and Massah are mentioned several times in Scripture as places where the people put God to the test. Meribah means “contention,” the place where the Israelites quarreled with God. Massah means “testing.” God not only promised, but time and again proved His providence for them. But when trials came again, they began to panic and worry and become angry, accusing God of having forgotten them.
I have done the same! In moments of doubt and despair, I have often failed to hear God because I am walking no longer by faith, but sight; I have started to listen to my own reasoning and logic, to the thunder and lightning of the storm in my mind, rather than the “still small voice” of the Lord. cf. 1 Kgs 19:12 Scripture says…
…he is found by those who do not test him, and manifests himself to those who do not disbelieve him. (Wis 1:2)
The Kingdom belongs to “little children.” cf. Matt 18:3 When our hearts become docile, we can begin to hear His voice again.
Every idol is a noise, every false god that we run after is another voice that drowns out the still small voice of the Spirit. Whenever I have ceased to “seek first the Kingdom of God,” whenever I have chased after the whims of the flesh and phantoms of the wide and easy road, this has become an obstacle to hearing God’s voice.
There shall be no strange god among you nor shall you worship any alien god… If only my people would hear me, and Israel walk in my ways… (Psalm)
In today’s Gospel, after a scribe agreed that loving God with all one’s being was the first of all the commandments, Jesus turned to him and said, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” An undivided heart can hear the King’s voice.
Last, distraction is a habitual struggle even for those who have learned to pray and listen to God’s voice. But to become discouraged by the multitude of “voices” trying to pull us away would be to fall into their trap. Rather, recognize the distractions for what they are: they often reveal what we are attached to. It is an opportunity to turn to the Lord in humility, place your heart in His hands to be purified, and simply begin again. cf. CCC, n. 2729 My spiritual director once said, “If you are distracted fifty times in prayer, but fifty times you turn back to God, that’s fifty acts of love you are giving Him that may be far more valuable than one un-distracted act of love.” A humble heart is able to discern the voice of the Lord.
I have humbled him, but I will prosper him. (First reading)
Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness; sadness that, because we have “great possessions,”we have not given all to the Lord; disappointment over not being heard according to our own will; wounded pride, stiffened by the indignity that is ours as sinners; our resistance to the idea that prayer is a free and unmerited gift; and so forth. The conclusion is always the same: what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance.—Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2728
Lately, I have been tempted to discouragement as we meet delays in moving our ministry, despite my persistent prayers. But it has taught me not to look for food beyond my “daily bread”…
In reality, holiness consists of one thing only: complete loyalty to God’s will…. You are seeking for secret ways of belonging to God, but there is only one: making use of whatever he offers you…. The great and firm foundation of the spiritual life is the offering of ourselves to God and being subject to His will in all things…. God truly helps us however much we may feel we have lost His support. —Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence
And He will tell you this in prayer, if your heart is docile, undivided, and humble.
“We shall say no more, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands; for in you the orphan finds compassion.” I will heal their defection, says the LORD, I will love them freely… (First reading)
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