Day in and day out, we hear lots of voices. We turn on the TV and hear the voices of the newscasters and actors and actresses. The radio is full of the voices of the announcers and singers. The voices of our coworkers and bosses fill our work environments. Even in our free time, we hear the voices of our families and friends. In the midst of all this noise, Jesus is calling to us softly, like a whisper in the night, to follow him.
Because of the voices that surround us, we might miss hearing the voice of the Lord. We might be so wrapped up in the problems and concerns of the world that we lose our focus on the spiritual realm. It's easy in times of challenges and struggles to put away prayer and focus on taking care of the problems that confront us. Unfortunately, it's also easy to fall into sin, which makes it harder to hear Our Lord's call, much as ear plugs make it hard to hear what is being said by others around us.
At other times in our lives, we might hear the Lord speaking to us, but mistake where that voice is coming from. Like Samuel, who mistook God's call in the middle of the night for Eli calling to him, we might think that the call we hear is coming from the world. Instead of following the voice that we hear from Jesus, we turn towards the things of the world and follow after them.
Conversely, we might hear voices which claim to be speaking on behalf of God, but are really speaking for themselves. Throughout history, much pain and suffering have come at the hands of those who have tricked others to follow their voices instead of the Lord's voice. Civil and religious leaders have sparked wars claiming that they were called by God to enter into battle against those who opposed them. Cult leaders, such as Jim Jones or David Koresh, brainwashed large groups of people convincing them that the leader's voice was the only true way to hear God's voice.
Ideally, we will reject all these false voices which serve to draw us away from Our Lord, but discerning His voice amongst the chaos can be difficult at best. Jesus does not speak to us in a literal voice, much as one human speaks to another, but speaks to us through the people and things that surround us every day. Likewise, He speaks to us through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, drawing us closer to Him through subtle hints and feelings. With all the conflicting voices, how do we block out those which are not from Our Lord and focus on those which come from Him?
To hear Our Lord's voice, we first need to realize that He is always speaking to us. He is constantly trying to encourage us to turn to Him, so we need to find ways to silence ourselves and allow Him to speak to us. We need to take time every day to shut out as many distractions and outside voices as we can and just focus on Our Lord. While it would be ideal to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament here in the church every day, that's not always possible or practical. Some times, it might be as simple as going into the bedroom or another secluded part of the house for even just a few minutes each day. I've known people who would sit in their cars and pray, as it was the only quiet place that they had available to them.
When we take this time for silence and prayer, we need to respond to the Lord as Eli instructed Samuel to respond: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” We need to make this prayer with sincerity and listen for His words. As we begin to listen, there probably won't be a whisper, as Samuel heard, and it may take some time to figure out God's voice in our lives. Eventually, His voice will become very clear as we spend more time in prayer, as we will begin to recognize His voice. It's all a matter of discernment of His will for our lives and how He is speaking to us at this moment in our lives.
Like He did with Samuel, God is calling to us to follow Him. We just need to open our hearts and listen.