Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Seeing and Hearing God by Colleen O’Sullivan

Seeing and Hearing God by Colleen O’Sullivan

During the time young Samuel was minister to the Lord under Eli, a revelation of the Lord was uncommon and vision infrequent… At that time Samuel was not familiar with the Lord because the Lord had not revealed anything to him as yet. The Lord called Samuel again, for the third time. Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.” Then Eli understood that the Lord was calling the youth. So Eli said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”  (1 Samuel 3:1, 7-9a)

Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
God's Grandeur, Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ, 1844-1889            

As I reflected on today’s Scripture readings, one line, in particular, stood out: during Samuel’s ministry under Eli, “a revelation of the Lord was uncommon and vision infrequent.” It’s true we are told in 1 Samuel 2 that during the entire period of the Judges in Israel, there were very few prophets or revelations recognized. But if we believe that God is in all things, or as Gerard Manley Hopkins more eloquently put it, “the world is charged with the grandeur of God,” it seems more likely that people, in general, weren’t actively looking for God or listening to what God might be saying than that God was purposely remaining silent or hidden.

How different are we today from people in Samuel’s time? I hear people talking about what terrible times we live in, and there is most definitely much human suffering all around the globe. Nevertheless, God is still to be found in our midst and God is still speaking to us if we would only take the time to see and hear the Lord. A retreat is a perfect opportunity for carving out quiet time in the midst of the noise and busyness of our everyday lives. The first silent retreat I went on was, however, a great shock to my system. I thought perhaps I had landed at a sort of detox program. I never realized how much I filled up all my space with meaningless noise until it was gone. Then the cravings struck with a vengeance. I need my television. I need my music. I need a radio... Fortunately, all that subsided and I went home with a greater appreciation for silence and a slower pace as a means of hearing and seeing God.

Sometimes in our prayer lives, we tend to be like the person who doesn’t hear anything anyone else says because he or she is too busy thinking about the next thing they are going to say. I know that God listens to all our prayers, but I wonder if God doesn’t sometimes long to turn off the cacophony of words and to sit quietly with us instead or maybe to whisper in our ears and know that we are in hearing mode.

It would be interesting to know how Jesus prayed. How much of it was simply being in the presence of his Father? How much of it was a pouring out of what was in his heart? How much, if any of it, were prayer intentions? The most we can know is that prayer was essential to Jesus. He regularly left whatever he was doing to be in communion with the Father.

In the last few days, where have you seen God or heard God’s voice? When was the last time you sat in companionable silence with the Lord?

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