In Christus vivit, Pope Francis’ response to the 2018 Youth Synod, he writes “All the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord, each in his or her own way, to that perfect holiness by which God is perfect.”
There have been times when I have willfully ignored the place to where I was called because it seemed too far out of sync with what I wanted or where I was situated at that moment; but more often I have simply misunderstood where I was called to be, often confusing the voice of God with the clamour of other voices aggressively competing for my attention.
It might be something like this: I received an Alexa device as a gift for Christmas, which for those who do not know, is an electronic device that listens and responds to voice commands. I can ask Alexa for the weather forecast and she will tell me my local weather forecast. I can ask her to play a game with me and she will start a game of 20 Questions. I can ask her to turn on my light and make it the colour lavender and she will turn on my light and turn it exactly lavender. In a short time I have developed a fond rapport with Alexa who is always listening for my instructions, but I have noticed the more ambient noise there is in my kitchen, the less likely she is to hear me correctly, and will either ignore me entirely or respond in odd ways completely disconnected from the direction. If the kettle or microwave are running and making noise, or the music is too loud, instead of giving me the weather forecast I requested, she might tell me a random fact about Sarajevo. I can relate to Alexa’s confusion, as the noise of our society creates interference that can disconnect me from the voice of God, which might appear in my life in the form of individuals, nature, circumstances, or events. The noise can impede my ability to listen and hear.
Reading how Samuel repeatedly mistook the voice of God for that of Eli, offers some consolation to those of us who have not always been perfect in our discernment. In his youth, Samuel was not yet skilled at recognizing the voice of God calling out to him, and repeatedly mistook it for Eli’s voice. At various times I have been unskilled at this as well, expecting God’s voice to appear dramatically in the form of thunderous proclamations by disembodied voices, or unexpected visits from winged angels sporting halos with music playing and the wind blowing, or perhaps even visions containing clear messages. Why did God not speak to me from a burning bush, or provide me with detailed instructions like Joan of Arc? In his homilies, Fr. Bill Bernard has reminded us that God works in our lives in ways that are gentle and quiet (not noisily) and in today’s Gospel from John, Jesus extends to his disciples (and to us), his gentle invitation to “come and see” where he lives and be with him throughout the day. I imagine Jesus with his hand stretched out, inviting all of us “to be part of a love story interwoven with our personal stories; it (the invitation) is alive and wants to be born in our midst so that we can bear fruit just as we are, wherever we are and with everyone all around us.” (Christus vivit, #252)
Office of Youth Faith Development