21 June, Monday — Listening to the inner voice

Jun 21 – Memorial for St. Aloysius Gonzaga, religious

St. Aloysius (1568-1591) was an Italian noble who grew up in a castle as the son of a compulsive gambler. He suffered from kidney disease, but considered it a blessing as it left him bed-ridden with time for prayer. While still a boy himself, he taught catechism to poor boys. At age 18 he signed away his legal claim to his family’s lands and title to his brother, and became a Jesuit novice. He tended to plague victims in Rome in the outbreak of 1591, and died of the plague himself with the desire to see God.

  • Patron Saint Index

Gen 12:1-9
Mt 7:1-5                                                                             

So Abram went as the Lord told him…

I recently went for a 4-day silent retreat and came away with many learnings, and I would like to share a couple here with you…

After the first night at the retreat, I woke up and spent time in the Chapel in the retreat house. Following a time of prayer and reflection, I went for a walk. I set off and, along the way, I received promptings to spend time and linger at certain locations. Yet, I was anxious to return to the retreat house at a certain time, to have my breakfast there and to prepare for my day. At one point, I heard a gentle voice in my heart asking me, “Why are you hurrying about? Why do you feel the need to be somewhere at some time? Just relax and spend time with me!”. I stopped, and what followed was a period of time when I really experienced God’s presence with me on my walk.

On another walk during the retreat, I found myself going to the Salvation Army, and there was a lady who was in front of me. As we were about to enter the building, she stopped abruptly, blocking me. I stepped around her, and as she fumbled with her bag, I opened the door to let her into the building. She entered, but did not thank me. As I muttered the words, not unsarcastically, “You are welcome”, I felt a wave of shame wash over me. As I observed her, I realised she was struggling to find her phone, and was feeling a little lost. She was looking a little stressed, and I felt that I had judged her, unfairly, and harshly.

In today’s readings, we see two different voices at work. 

In the first reading, we see how Abram listened, and obeyed God. At the age of seventy-five, he leaves his country and family for Canaan with his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot and all his earthly possessions. This must have taken a lot of faith. For me, in my mid-fifties, there have been times when I have wondered if I am too old (I know I am not… ) to begin tackling some projects. I know that if I heard God’s voice urging me to take the same journey, I would have a whole bunch of excuses not to.

In contrast, in the Gospel of today, our Lord cautions us not to judge, in order to avoid being judged ourselves.

In both scenarios, we hear voices. However, these voices come from different sources — the first, from the gentle whisperings of the Holy Spirit, and the second, from our own loud judgemental shouts.

As the hymn ‘Thank You, Lord’ goes, I often find God’s promptings soft, and more often than not, I would either miss, or totally ignore them. When I was at the silent retreat, shut off from the rest of the world, I found myself much more open to His voice. Yet, when I am in a hurry, or when I am inattentive, my own selfish voice easily overpowers His voice.

The retreat was a timely reminder of the importance of spending time away from the crowd, to spend time in prayer and reflection with our God. On the final day, we spoke about how we can remain connected after “coming down from the mountain”.  Over the last month after the retreat, I have thought about this often, and ironically found my answer in the ‘circuit breaker’ period we had gone through.

In the period of isolation, I found myself missing my family and friends, and over time, sought to make connections. What we ended up with was virtual meetings when we would have coffee or a meal ‘together’. While we don’t get to physically hug each other, we end these sessions feeling connected, and experiencing the intimacy we felt we had been lacking.

Ultimately, I figured that the way to connect with God is to simply set the time aside to connect with Him, to read the Bible, to connect our spirits. It is only by connecting regularly, that we can open ourselves to listen to Him. 

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, I ask that we will be able to open our hearts in order to listen to You. Help us, Father, to open our hearts and minds to You.

Thanksgiving: We praise You and thank You for always leading us. Thank You Father, for teaching us the way to live this life, and to live it fully.

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