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Listening to God's Voice
October 21st Readings Reflection: Saturday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel ends with one of my favourite passages in the New Testament: “When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”
While we may never be taken before “rulers and authorities” and interrogated for our Faith, we still have many opportunities throughout our lives to explain and defend the Faith to those who do not share our beliefs. Such situations can be overwhelming and fill us with a sense of inadequacy. We are not to fear, however, for Jesus has promised that “the Holy Spirit will teach [us] at that moment what [we] should say.”
The key, then, is attentiveness to the Holy Spirit. If we are not accustomed to listening to the Holy Spirit in our daily lives, we will not be able to hear His guiding voice when the situation arises to defend our Faith. Many of the saints wrote about the importance of silence in hearing God’s voice, and this reminder is especially timely in the age of technology. We are constantly surrounded by noise and distractions, all of which prevent us from hearing God’s “still small voice” (1Kg 19:12 RSVCE) within our hearts. St. Francis de Sales famously said, “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy—then we need an hour.” This is because we especially need God's grace to guide and sustain us when we are weighed down by the cares and worries of life.
It is easy for us to enter into the spiritual life with enthusiasm and to eagerly begin a rigorous regimen, only to become discouraged when we find our enthusiasm and perseverance waning after just a short time. For this reason, St. Francis de Sales instructed each person to begin cultivating a life of prayer slowly, like a toddler taking his first steps. Just as a child does not run a marathon on the first day that he walks, so too we should not take upon ourselves too many new prayers and devotions at once, but rather grow our spiritual lives slowly in order to form lasting habits.
St. Francis de Sales emphasized the importance of always placing ourselves in the presence of God before we pray. This helps us to separate ourselves from the noise and distractions that fill our hearts, allowing us to focus on God. Distractions may still enter our minds during prayer, but St. Francis de Sales wrote that the more we practice placing ourselves in the presence of God, the easier it will become to hear God’s voice. In this way, we can slowly but surely advance in the spiritual life and become more attuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit, Who will give us the words to say whenever we need to explain or defend the Faith.