|By Fr. Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose and Vicar General for special projects, Diocese of San Jose. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filtering the Noise of Life
I was recently at a restaurant with a friend of mine. We were there early, so there were very few people in the restaurant. We were deeply involved in conversations about the philosophy of life, and we did not realize how many people had come into the restaurant. When my friend went to use the restroom, I suddenly realized how loud it was. I wondered how I had ever heard my friend’s conversation. When he came back, he remarked how loud it was as well. But soon enough we were back into the conversation, and all the other voices just faded out into the background.
We humans have an amazing capability to filter out tons of noise when we choose to do so. We can push it all to the background and focus on what we really want to hear. I am sure that has happened to you. For the most part we can hear a conversation when we really want to hear.
This is a great metaphor for the Christian life. Today’s Gospel tells us that the Lord will send us his advocate, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, and that Spirit will dwell within us. We believe that each one of us who has been baptized has the Spirit of Truth dwelling within us.
But just like at the restaurant, there is a cacophony of voices offering us advice. We do not know which voice truly to listen to, and even if we do want to listen to one, it is really hard.
There is only one way we get to hear that one, true voice: in and through prayer. We have to come to know that voice first before we can focus on it. It is in prayer in a private place that we hear and become familiar with the sound of God’s voice. But private prayer is not the only place where the voice speaks to us. When we become familiar with how God talks to us, then we know when God is directing us and when he is not.
There is no shortcut to gaining familiarity with the voice of God. We only become familiar with it after we have tried our hardest to listen. And when we come to hear it, we hear it not just in private prayer but in other places around us. When we start out in private prayer, the noise level is less, but often our inner thoughts stop the conversation in private prayer and the noise level is higher. To restart the conversation with God, we have to really focus to hear that voice again.
Scripture tells us this that God speaks to us in two ways primarily. The first way is to us as individuals: advice given to us to live our lives in our own particular reality. God will assist us in that way. The second is that God speaks to us as a community. That is why we gather around the Eucharist. It is not just as individuals with a personal voice from God but also in the midst of community.
This is our role today; to listen to the Advocate that the Lord puts within us and to follow The Way, The Truth and The Life.