"This is my beloved son; listen to him" (Mt 17:5). How do we listen to Jesus, God's beloved son? Moses and Elijah appeared on the mountain of transfiguration, joining Jesus. Jesus was in the company of his close disciples, Peter, James and his brother John when Jesus' face transfigured and his clothes became dazzling white. These appearances and transfiguration are indicative of a divine encounter. Moses and Elijah had previously encountered God on Mount Sinai or Horeb. Jesus has been revealed in his glory as he begins a new exodus that will lead to the liberation of humanity from sin and death by his death on the cross. God the Father commands us to listen to his son at his transfiguration. What do we listen to, and how do we hear?
Lent is a season for listening to God's voice speak to our hearts. As we go into the desert to pray and fast with Jesus for forty days, and as we return to the Father and deepen our love and relationship with him through Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, let us not fail to find time to listen to the "sound of silence." I am here alluding to Simon and Garfunkel's classic song title, "The Sound of Silence ("Bridge over Water" and "The Sound of Silence are two of my favorite songs of all time-pardon my digression, I could not resist the temptation. Did I not preach about how to overcome temptations last week? Lol!). It is a paradox. How do you juxtapose sound with silence? How do you hear and listen to the "sound" of silence? I find the song's last lines helpful: "The words of the prophets are written on the subway halls, in tenement halls. And whispered in the sounds of silence." Elijah once showed us that God speaks to us in a "still small voice" (1 Kg 19: 12).
Jesus still speaks to us if we choose to listen. To listen is an active act, not a passive attitude. To listen is to act on what we heard in a "still small voice." That voice speaks to us in Sacred Scriptures, the Holy Eucharist, and meditation before sacred icons like the Crucifix. St. Thomas Aquinas once heard a voice talk to him while meditating on the crucifix in a convent in Naples: "Thou has written well of me, Thomas. What reward will you have." He answered: "Domine, non nisi te (Lord, nothing except you). Likewise, St. Francis heard God telling him while praying before the crucifix in a broken-down church in San Damiano, "Francis, rebuild my church." If you listen to Jesus in the Gospels, Eucharistic adoration, and gaze on the crucifix, you will hear him calling you to a deeper union with him through ongoing conversion.
Regarding conversion, the catechumens we sent to the bishop for election are now called elects. They are currently going through a period of purification and enlightenment. This period of interior conversion will be aided by constantly listening to the voice of Jesus calling them to come closer. Let us join them in going through this period as we prepare to renew our baptismal vows at Easter. We have provided opportunities for reflective listening in our parish, especially at Lent. We have a quiet time to listen to Jesus exposed on the altar before or after daily masses, Monday to Friday; we have a bible study on the biblical root of Mass on Tuesday and Wednesday; we have a Hallow app to download on our phones to access podcasts to help us listen to Jesus; Liturgy of the Hours during Eucharistic Adoration on Thursday night inclusive of meditation on the Five Sacred Wounds of Jesus; Stations of the Christ on Friday preceded by a brief reflection on the Five Sacred Wounds of Jesus, and so on and forth.
What intentional plans do you have this Lent to listen for the voice of Jesus? Make plans and act on them. Then, I can guarantee you that you will grow closer to Jesus.
In His Heart,
Fr. Bernard, OP