B Cycle – 4th Sunday of Easter 21
Did you ever hear the voice of God? If you are expecting a booming voice like that one people heard when Jesus was baptized your answer will most likely be no. But that does not mean God is not talking to us. In fact, if you read the scriptures, you will discover the many ways, we can hear God speaking to us. The scriptures tell us even the demons heard the voice of God speaking to them. The scriptures tell us how Mary Magdalene recognized Jesus when he spoke her name. The scriptures tell us Jesus spoke to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, but they did not know it was him until the breaking of the bread. The scriptures tell us, Saul of Tarsus was spoken to by Jesus on the road to Damascus.
The voice of God is always speaking to us, but the real question is do we recognize that voice and if not, why do we not recognize his voice. Is it because we do not know him?
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us his sheep know him and he them. If we know him, then we should recognize his voice, in the same way we recognize the voice of someone close to us when they call us. The gospel goes on to say, there are other sheep who do not belong to his flock and they too will hear his voice. Jesus is telling us how God is always speaking to us and we must put ourselves in a position to listen to him speak to us. Yet, as important as putting ourselves in a position to listen is, it is just as important for us to become intimate with Jesus so we can recognize his voice.
We need to be ready for those times when he speaks to us during the busyness of our lives. Those times when he catches us by surprise, and we are changed by the experience. The story of the cripple lying by the pool at Bethesda (Jn.5:1-8) is an example of an unexpected encounter with Jesus. You have to notice that as Jesus begins to speak to the crippled man, he does not realize who is speaking to him. Yet, it began a conversation which ends with a revelation and a total change in the man. In fact, every conversation with Jesus results in a transformation of the person if they respond to him.
We know not everyone responded, for we know how often Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and how they ignored everything he said to them. This gospel is telling us we need to not only be open to hear the voice of God speaking to us, but we must also respond to that voice. One of the questions we need to ask ourselves is if we are listening and responding, or have we become blinded by other forces which prevent us from seeing who is speaking to us. Like Mary Magdalene, the woman at the well, the disciples on the road to Emmaus and the cripple at the pool if we listen and respond we will know who is speaking to us.
One of the issues is God is always speaking to us and he uses every vehicle to grab our attention. God can speak to us in a popular non-religious books, movies, or songs. God can speak to us through other people, a child, a spiritual director, or even a non-believer. Lines spoken in movies, verses sung, and honest conversation can be moments of God speaking to us. God uses circumstantial random events to reveal himself to us. God can speak to us through nature as we encounter God in a sunrise or sunset, amid a storm or in the beauty of a butterfly or a flower.
All these things can grab our attention and the Holy Spirit opens our hearts and minds to respond to the voice of God. We must understand, God desires us to hear his voice and it comes to us through every moment of every day, for God is relentless in his desire for us to respond to him. It is not the how God speaks to us that we should be paying attention to, it is the message God desires us to hear that is important. Once we begin to respond to the voice, we can understand how sees in us the beauty he created and that is very different than how we view ourselves.
All we strive for by being faithful Catholic’s is already ours because of God’s love of us and the death and resurrection of Jesus. When God said, “this is my son in whom I am well pleased” those words are words God wants us to know are meant for us to hear about ourselves.
The death of Jesus made those words an absolute spiritual truth revealing how God views us. Because it is a spiritual truth, God is constantly revealing that to us through every avenue possible. Let me give you one example how God used a movie based on a book to reveal that to us. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis is full of imagery containing this message of God to us. Edmund is one of the four siblings that stumble into Narnia and is tricked by the White Witch into betraying his brother and sisters. Ultimately, Edmund comes to his senses and with great reluctance returns to join his siblings who are eager to confront him about his betrayal.
Aslam, the Lion representing Christ, intervenes and takes Edmund aside to talk with him. When Aslan and Edmund finish this discussion, the siblings are ready to unload their anger at him for his betrayal, but Aslan says to them “all is forgiven, it is never to be spoken about anymore.”
That one line is the summation of the very heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the one voice we need to hear and take to heart. All is forgiven. It is never to be talked about, never are we judged on our failing and never will our failings be the cause of us being separated from God.
The Father is offering us the ability to grasp the meaning of those words. He does not ask us to do anything to make up for our failings but he will ask us to go off with him so we can feel his embrace, hear him forgive us and hear how deeply he loves us. Then like Edmund, grasp the life offered us and are ready to do battle with the forces of evil attempting to destroy our belief in a merciful loving God.