Gn. 12:1-4a; Ps. 33; 2 Tm. 1:8b-10; Mt. 17:1-9
(Audio recorded live, 5 March 2023)
Do we listen to the voice of God? Today, we heard how God called Abram to go forth from the land of his father and directed him to a land that was yet to be revealed. In other words, Abram had no idea where the Lord was going to lead him. All he had was this promise: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.” If we were in the same position as Abram, how would we respond to the Lord’s prompting? Would we pack up and leave, not knowing where we were going to end up? Some of us might say, if I were younger, I would go for it. But, Abram was 75 when he left his homeland and set out for the land God was directing him. Some might say, if I didn’t have to take care of my family, I would go for it. But, Abram took with him his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all their possessions and their servants. For all intents and purposes, that was his family. Can you imagine? Just picking up and heading for a place that is yet to be revealed by God? What might we need in order to embark on such a journey? The answer is faith, which is why Abram is our father in faith. He heard the voice of God and acted upon it.
Our psalm describes the importance of placing our trust in the Lord. It would seem, then, that faith is also about trust. On a merely human level, trust can be somewhat volatile. How do we know when we can trust someone? First, they must prove themselves to be trustworthy. When they consistently say they will do something and follow through with it, they begin to earn our trust. Is it any different with God? Has God ever changed his mind or gone back on his word? Certainly from the time of Abram onward, God has been reaching out to his people and directing their lives. He does so by giving us the gift of faith, so that we may come to recognize in God a certainty we cannot find even in the most trustworthy of friends. And so, faith helps us to realize that we can trust God.
But, what do we do when our trust in God tends to waver? Sometimes it may seem as though God is not listening to our prayers, but we should then ask ourselves, are we listening to God? So often our spiritual life is a one-way street. We have a tendency to ask God for so much, and are bitter when God does not respond. Perhaps we are not listening as Abram did. Take St. Peter for instance. At the Transfiguration, Jesus reveals his glory and rather than listen, Peter pipes right up saying, “I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” It was then that the bright cloud cast a shadow on the disciples saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” So, how much of our prayer time is spent actually listening?
Lent is a season meant specifically for this type of prayer. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church there are three types of prayer: Vocal prayer, meditative prayer, and contemplative prayer. Vocal prayer is the type we are most familiar with. It includes prayers we say out loud like the Mass, Rosary, Divine Mercy, etc., but what about meditative and contemplative prayer? Meditative prayer is a reading of Sacred Scripture and reflecting on the text. Scripture is, after all, the Word of God, so if we find it difficult to hear God’s voice, there is no better place to start than Scripture. An easy practice of Catholic meditation is to read a passage slowly and focus on a word or phrase that stands out to you. Why does that phrase stand out? What does it mean to you? How will you respond to it in your life? Ultimately, all our prayer should lead us to contemplation, which is essentially passive prayer. It is a type of prayer that puts God in the driver’s seat, while we go along for the ride. It can take decades for one to develop the level of spiritual discipline suited to this type of prayer, because it really is a matter of letting go so that God can direct our prayer, just as he directed Abram where to go.
And so, as we continue our Lenten journey, perhaps we might spend some time reflecting on today’s readings. Go home, open up your new favorite prayer app and look at the readings of the day. What is God saying to you? What is Jesus saying? Let him speak and may the communion we share today help us to listen to his word, dwelling in our heart.