God Is With Us: Are We Listening?

| 12-20-AD2013 | [4]

Emmanuel Joseph - Listening2

Looking at the insurmountable pain and sufferings that weighs down humanity all over the world, sometimes it is hard to understand that He is Emmanuel- God is with us.For a long time in my life I was a believer of the indifferent god – the one who merely watches everything from the sidelines. If God is with us here, then why can’t he say something when I am in trouble, in pain, in despair?

I read Diane McKelva’s article, Fear Not: Angels We have Heard on High, about how a mysterious woman warned her about what lay ahead and how to respond. I also thought about a similar experience my father had while he was going through cancer treatment, and though those mysterious voices didn’t immediately solve  my parents’ problems, it did help them persevere and eventually succeed.

My troubles with the silent god went away a few years ago following an incident I am going to talk about now. I must say that I had my mind set to write about it even before I read Diane McKelva’s article, but something similar happened again this past weekend. So when I read her article, I knew that was God speaking to me to confirm my decision! Get it?

A couple of years ago, when God gave me the grace to open my eyes and see the filth I had accumulated by walking on that wide open road that lead to eternal damnation, I made a decision to switch paths. Part of the process involved going to Confession. And I had a lot to confess, since it has been many years since my last Confession. I was relived when the priest, after hearing my confession, kept his composure, congratulated me for humbling myself before the Lord and gave me small penance. I was expecting the priest to criticize me for abandoning my faith, and give some kind of severe penance that fits my transgressions. After the Confession, I felt good for a few days, but then a thought began creeping into my heart: ‘This can’t be that easy! So many sins committed over so many years are gone with a simple Confession? That can’t be”. I tried to fight it off, but as days went by it just got worse to a point where I thought of myself a fool for believing that all my sins were forgiven when I confessed. I needed some confirmation.  I needed somebody with authority (I preferred God Himself) to look me in the eyes and say it is true. In a matter of little over a week, I was in such a bad condition that I couldn’t even pray or read the Bible.

Around that time, I also had the habit of attending weekday Masses aired live on EWTN. Along with prayers and Bible, I had stopped watching that also. Then one morning, I had this strong urge to turn on the TV in time for the holy Mass, but I resisted it and kept myself busy with other things. However, as noon came along, I could no longer resist it and began watching the re-telecast of the morning Mass. After the Scripture readings, the priest started his homily and said something like this: Our God is a merciful God, when we confess our sins, He forgives us and separate us from sin as the east is separated from the west. Immediately I thought: There it goes again, another priest preaching the same nonsense. But, then, something happened and my thought went no further. The priest stopped, recollected his thought for a moment and said, “I wasn’t planning on saying anything about Confession and I don’t know why I said that”. Then he went on with with his homily based on that day’s readings. I sat on my couch for a long time teary eyed and dumbfounded; I just heard God speaking to me. He made a poor priest put aside a previously prepared homily to deliver a personal message to one of His confused ones.

I went to church this past weekend with a heavy heart, since I knew I would be celebrating Christmas away from my family for the third year in a row. I have made great strides over the past couple of years in trusting God and His plans, and lately, I complain rarely when things don’t go according to my way. But Holidays are hard – happy family theme trails only Santa and his minions everywhere you turn. I know most of  the love and family bonding I see around Holidays are superficial; but my mind is weird – it yearns superficiality knowing fully well that it is fake. So I have been searching for someone to come along to tell me to stay strong, to hang on and be patient while God sorts things out.

My state of my mind was well reflected in my attendance during the Mass as I was completely distracted during the first two readings (Isaiah 35:1-6A,10 and James 5:7-10), and barely heard the Gospel reading (Matthew 11:2-11). As I sat down for the homily, I was ready to go back to my thoughts interrupted by the Gospel reading. But, then, Fr. Mike Ciski started his homily saying this, “I had a homily prepared about expectations based on the Gospel reading, but I don’t want to talk about it today. Instead, I want to talk about patience”. Patience – Fr. Mike has opted to talk about patience rather than expectation. For the next 10 minutes, I heard God telling me what I wanted to hear through Fr. Mike, who is probably still wondering why he abandoned his well prepared homily at the last minute.

So what am I trying say here – that God interrupts homilies of unsuspecting priests to talk to me? Definitely not. I think what I am trying to say is that God speaks to you and me all the time, not just when we are troubled and looking for proof or confirmation. Unlike our expectations, God doesn’t speak to us with a booming voice from the clouds. He speaks to us in a “light silent sound”, but we can still hear it because He is Emmanuel – He is with us all the time, regardless of where we are.

All my life, I am sure, God has been talking to me through priests delivering boring homilies, parents who tested my patience with lengthy lecturing, obnoxious relatives poking their nose into my private life, annoying co-workers offering unsolicited assistance, strangers with untimely advices, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, I failed to listen to God speaking through them, because I had preconceived notions about what I wanted to listen to, and opinions about the very little I actually listened. So I closed my ears when I heard things I didn’t want to hear. And even when I listened, I had the tendency to relate what I heard in relation to other people’s circumstances rather than to my own.

I only heard God speaking to me twice because both times He was telling me what I wanted to hear. Many times in our life, God’s language can be difficult to understand and accept because it contradicts our expectations; it challenges us to leave our comfort zone. This is why very few discerned God’s voice in the feeble cries of a newborn in Bethlehem and in squeals of a Man being nailed to the cross on Calvary. God speaks to us all the time because He is the source of all wisdom and understanding, and only He knows what is right and true.  More importantly, He wants us to be with Him through eternity.

But are we listening?

© 2013 Emmanuel Joseph. All rights reserved.

About the Author:

Born in India, Emmanuel is a cradle Catholic who spent most of his adolescent and adult life as an agnostic. After dedicating much of his life to make, lose, and waste money, he felt the love of Christ embracing him and picking him up from a bottomless pit during a low point in his life. He now spends his days spreading the love of Christ through the word of God. He is a proud father to Vismaya Ross, Vivek Joseph and Varsha Regina, and a loving husband to Sheena. Emmanuel writes about the mercy and love of God with the heart of a believer and the brains of a former agnostic in his blog "A Walk with Mother Mary" (www.emmanueljoseph.com).
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