The Sunday Homily

The Second Sunday of Lent


"Hearing God's Voice"

Although medical experts tell us that hearing is the last sense that we lose in the process of dying, nothing seems to be more difficult in our lives than hearing and listening.  We live in households in which members feel that no one ever listens to them.  “Are you listening to me?”  This is a line a teen might say to a parent and, just as easily, a parent might say to a teenager.

Modern media has made the issue of listening even more difficult through mass media.  Even in the early days of radio, demagogues held listeners captive, one of them being the famous priest, Father Charles Coughlin, who broadcast anger and anti-Semitism from his station in Detroit.  Well before cable and well before the Internet, media raised the question for us: Who are you listening to?  And what is this doing to your life?

If it’s so difficult to listen to each other, what about listening to God?  Abraham presents, in the first reading, a classic example.  He shows us that sometimes we have to listen very hard, and for a long time, to get God’s true message.  Abraham, who longed for the birth of a son through his wife Sarah, now appears to be asked to sacrifice Isaac, his beloved Son, to God.  The choice seems cruel and impossible. Who do you love more: God, or the son God gave you?

Only later can Abraham hear more deeply as the Angel of God tells Abraham not to kill his Isaac but to find an animal offering instead.  This is a deeper hearing of the voice of God on the part of Abraham, one that reveals more fully who God is.  For the God of love does not spurn our loves; rather, this God would have us bring all our loves into the fullness of his love.  Finally, Abraham was able to hear God clearly.

The climax of the Gospel also involves listening.  When the cloud encircles the three apostles closest to Jesus, we hear the voice of God: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”  This voice appears directed to Peter who has not begun to figure out what the trip to the mountain top means, what the figures of Moses and Elijah stand for, or what Jesus’s mission is all about.  Peter called Jesus “The Messiah” in the previous chapter of the Gospel; but he has not learned to listen to Jesus.

We listen to Jesus when we stop imposing our distorted ideas on him.  We listen to Jesus when we see that his path was not one of power or pleasure, but one of humbly serving others, even at the cost of himself.  We listen to Jesus when we realize that faith does not revolve around our own selves; rather, faith brings our selves into relationship with the One whom God has sent into our lives.  We listen to Jesus when we see that the more we run from the authentic voice of God the more darkness we find in our lives.  “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

Paul reminds us how hard it is to hear God.  Do we not spend so much of our lives wondering if God loves us and if God is on our side? But Paul shows that, when we have the ears and eyes of faith, we know that God is always for us.  We know that nothing can separate us from the love he has given us in Christ.

“Are you listening to me?”  Often we want to say this to God in our fear.  But far more often, God is saying this to us in his love.