Listening for God’s Voice in a Noise-Filled World

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It seems natural to seek advice in life. Often we will turn to a person whom we respect; it may be a professional, a friend or family member.

Wise counsel can assist us in decision making, relationships and in various life situations. This is also true in the spiritual life.

I am sure that many of us have heard the phrase, “I am spiritual but not religious.”

If a person describes himself or herself in this way, what are they saying? It usually means that this person appreciates the body-mind-spirit dynamic, but does not feel a need to be part of an organized religion.

When it comes to God, it does not have to be an either-or situation.

In the Old Testament, in the Book of Samuel, there is an account of the calling of Samuel. He is sleeping in the temple and a voice is calling him; however, he does not know it is the Lord. Three times Samuel mistakenly goes to the priest Eli thinking that it is he who is calling him. Eli finally realizes it is the Lord, so he tells Samuel the next time he hears the voice to say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).

Eli helped Samuel because he listened. We too need to listen to good spiritual advice.

In a world of noise and distractions, it becomes more difficult to listen. This is especially true with regard to relationships.

We know that good communication is essential to making things run smoothly in life. The same is true in the spiritual life. If God is calling us to a deeper relationship, how can we respond with an open heart if we do not know the voice? The church can help us just as Eli was able to help Samuel.

Christianity is not a static intellectual religion that is filled with rules and regulations that limit our personal freedom by demanding strict obedience. Our Christian faith is a story of love that is liberating.

The story begins at the moment of creation. God created us in love and continues to sustain us in love. Even though we may fail to respond, God never gives up and continues to reach out with great patience.

The significance of this relationship cannot be fully grasped in isolation. We need the church community to help us with sound spiritual advice. If we are spiritual, then our religious experience will help us to discover God, worship God, and love God by serving others, especially those in need.

Some may feel that their church experience has been less than helpful because of the hypocrisy of “religious” people.

The church is not a paragon of perfection; it is a community of sinners seeking to grow in holiness.

Pope Francis reminds us that the church is like a field hospital that brings healing to the wounded: “Sometimes, I speak of the church as if it were a field hospital. It is true: there are many, many wounded! So many people need their wounds healed! This is the mission of the church: to heal the wounds of the heart, to open doors, to free people, to say God is good and forgives all” (Pope Francis’ Homily, Santa Marta, Feb. 5, 2015).

We are a wounded church that knows that with the Lord there is love and mercy.

God’s love has the ability to heal and transform us and that happens both spiritually and religiously. From a Christian perspective, to be spiritual is to focus on listening to the voice of God. To be religious is to receive the words: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

Most Reverend Gerard Bergie is Bishop of Saint Catharines

Published first on http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2018/01/19/faith-listening-for-gods-voice-in-a-noise-filled-world