The other night I was at a friend’s house talking with the guys in the dining room waiting for dessert to finish baking. In the background, there was a very faint chirping noise that went away as suddenly as it sounded. Our host stood up and went to the kitchen to remove the cookies from the oven while we marveled at how he could even hear the timer. Someone commented, “if he doesn’t hear this timer, the next one is much louder” while pointing at the smoke detector. We all had a good laugh at that and proceeded to enjoy dessert!
The readings this coming Sunday, as well as those for last Sunday, have as their theme “God is calling.” Last week we saw Samuel being called by the Lord while he slept and we heard the story of Jesus calling the first disciples to follow him. This week, we have Jonah being called to go to Nineveh and Jesus inviting Simon (Peter), Andrew, James and John to follow Him as “fishers of men.” These inspirational stories highlight an incredibly important fact—God calls ordinary people to follow Him; people like you and me! A look at the lives of the saints confirms this reality—God calls ordinary men and women. It is in the answering of God’s calling that we participate in the extraordinary. After all, if Peter doesn’t follow after Jesus he remains Simon, a simple fisherman unknown to anyone outside of his small sea-side hometown. Instead, he answers “Yes,” follows Christ thus becoming Peter, a “fisher of men” and the first Pope.
“God calls ordinary men and women. It is in the answering of God’s calling that we participate in the extraordinary”
The Lord calls each of us to follow Him. Unfortunately, for many of us we completely miss it altogether! Maybe it’s because we expect to find God in a burning bush or some other awe-inspiring supernatural experience. Maybe it’s because our lives are so full of distraction and noise. Or perhaps it’s because we don’t know what to listen for. Like me and my friends sitting in the dining room awaiting cookies, if we are expecting to hear God calling like a loud buzzer we might miss the small, quiet sound of Him speaking to our hearts (see the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:1-13).
So how do we make sure we hear God speaking?
It’s one thing to say, “yeah, I’d like to have God speak to me” but quite another to actually prepare to hear Him. We need to move beyond the theoretical and into the practical. Here are some basic steps:
Pray and ask the Lord to speak:
We need to affirm that it is our desire to hear God speaking to our hearts and ask that He give us the “ears to hear” what He is speaking. In this prayer, we surrender our own desires and acclaim that we want to know and do His will.
Expect that God will speak:
If we go throughout our day without the expectation that God hears and answers our prayer, that He does indeed call out to us, we aren’t going to be looking for His love notes to us. He wants to speak to us, let’s pray with and live with great expectations.
Build in moments of silence:
Ever try to have a conversation with someone who never stops to listen? It is very frustrating! Sometimes we let the noise crowd out the silence we need to listen for His voice.
Take a moment to reflect:
At the end of the day, take time to reflect and ask ourselves “how has the Lord been speaking to me today? How did I respond—did I follow Him or ignore Him?” This daily Examen, as St. Ignatius called it, is essential to the spiritual life! Think of it like this, during an important conversation we make sure that we’ve understood what the other is saying, that we are on the same page, so to speak. Reflecting on our day and asking these types of questions helps us to make sure that we understand what God has been saying to us throughout the daily dialogue.
Pray for forgiveness and thanksgiving:
As we become aware of the times we chose to ignore God, let’s pray seeking forgiveness. For the times that we did respond to God’s voice, offer a prayer of thanksgiving. Let us seek grace to respond more fully the next day.
The more we practice this process, the more sensitive we will become to hearing God’s call in our lives. And that is how we grow in holiness. Make no mistake, the Lord is calling each one of us—may we respond throughout our ordinary days in extraordinary grace-filled ways!