The prophet Jeremiah told us in today’s first reading, that God came to him three times, with specific instructions on what to do. Jeremiah listened and did exactly what He said. But, how did Jeremiah listen? How was the prophet Jeremiah able to hear God’s voice? He initially did what God said, and purchased the loincloth. Then, God spoke again and told him to wear it but not to wash it. Ok, that’s not complicated. But, it was a long interval before God spoke to Jeremiah about the loincloth again. It was so long in fact, that the loincloth was rotten by the time God sent Jeremiah to retrieve it.
So, how did Jeremiah know the sound of God’s voice after so much time had passed? It doesn’t sound like Jeremiah had any outside help learning how to distinguish God’s voice in the midst of his daily life, with the same kind of distractions we all face. Even if we live isolated in the desert or a cloister, there are still distractions and things to attend to.
First of all, people do not usually hear God’s voice through outside help from other people. It can begin there, but eventually a person must learn how to move past the advice that they receive through books, retreats, priests, spiritual directors, etc. and learn for themselves how to listen to God.
It’s not that hard. Reduce or eliminate your distractions at least temporarily, or even for a more extended period of time. Spend some serious time in prayer. Empty your heart and give it to the Lord, for there is no one else who can heal it. No human person can heal it. Other people can only take you so far. Then, receive the sacraments as often as you can
Silence, solitude, prayer, the sacraments, being in the natural world, and simple manual labor like yard work or cleaning the house are all conducive to opening yourself up to God. It is a way of reaching out for Him, and He will surely reach back for you. Very few human beings reject hugs. God never does. He always hugs back. It may take a while and it may not happen when you are expecting the Holy Spirit, but He usually does come. If not, then there may still be sins on our soul that need to be confessed. That helps too. There is no guarantee that you will hear the still small voice of God in the silence, but at least He knows you made the effort to hear Him, the same way He makes an effort to hear your prayers. Love is a two way street.
And that is the problem with the people of Judah. God was so close to them, but they couldn’t hear Him because of their pride. Pride is a mortal sin. Getting it out of the way is the first thing you need to do to hear Him when He speaks, because He is already as close as the air we breathe. We ourselves, are the one who gets in the way.
In the silence, solitude, prayer, reception of the sacraments and simple manual labor, the smallest of things become prominent. You notice little things, like the mustard seed in today’s gospel. Be open to what the little things have to say to you, as you go about your day. God speaks through little things. A very small thing that you notice and then hear God speaking in your heart, may take root and grow into something beautiful for the Lord. Every major thing that occurs in our lives, our communities, countries, or during the history of mankind, started with one tiny thought. By God’s grace, His plan can be revealed in that one tiny thought. Each step of the way, you can be led by God to accomplish His will in the world, if you remain open to the little thoughts, and the small moments of grace that He rains down in our lives.