The 19th century English novelist, William Thackeray, once noted that “Mother is the name for God on the lips and in the hearts of little children.” From the moment of our birth, mothers are “for us” in ways too numerous to mention. They feed, clean, and nurture us. And when we fall, their gentle voices provide us with the comfort and gentle encouragement to begin again and try—just one more time. Regarding the power of a mother’s voice, researchers at the University of Wisconsin have studied and confirmed what many of us already believe. After placing groups of girls in stressful situations, one group of girls had their mothers on hand for a physical hug while others were handed the telephone, with mom on the line. The results? Those whose mothers were physically present found their stress levels reduced more quickly, but not by much!
A couple of years ago, Detroit Free Press columnist, Mitch Albom, wrote a heart-wrenching column about his own mother. He recalled the many times he attempted to convince her to use email, noting the practical benefit that “it would cut down on phone bills.” But always, her reply would be: “No, I want to hear your voice. I want you to make the effort.”
Outside of our personal relationships, it is true that “public” voices are powerful things. When amplified by modern technology, they blare at us from many directions. Traditionally, these voices have been advertisers or politicians with visions of spending or voting on their minds. But increasingly, they come from powerful interest groups seeking to convince, and even bully us, into accepting lifestyles that are contrary to God’s law.
Perhaps that is the message for us on this Fourth Sunday of Easter. With so many voices surrounding us, what voices should we listen to? And more specifically, whose voice is preeminent? In the Gospel of John (10:1-10), Jesus warns us to be wary of thieves who proclaim that there are many gates from which to enter and declares:
I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
In our day, is it not true that many proclaim that what Jesus taught and what His Church continues to teach—is wrong? Jesus implores us: Don’t listen to them. Don’t be sheep who follow sheep. Rather, be sheep that know the Lord’s voice and are unafraid to follow Him.
I am often asked: “Where may I find God’s voice speaking to me?” My first response is in Sacred Scripture. I point out that Moses heard God call out to him from the cloud? (Exod 24:16) And that in Psalm 46:6, when God utters his voice, the earth melts. Also, that the Prophet Ezekiel (43:2) said that the voice of the Lord was like the sound of many waters. Outside of the scriptures, I also encourage those who I meet to frequent Mass so that they might listen and meditate upon God’s Word and receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Or, even for a few minutes, to pray before the Blessed Sacrament and ask God to touch their heart. Or still yet, by simply turning off the radio when we drive or rising fifteen minutes early each day for peace and quiet time with the Lord. A priest once told me that if we practiced all of the above—even slightly—we would begin to see powerful changes in our lives and recognize the ways God informs, leads, and guides us.
After following such a prescription, we might even wonder where God’s voice has been all along? And His soft voice will tell us: “I’ve been with you from the start, not pushing or pressing, but just waiting for you to pay attention.”
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