How many voices can be heard each day, making all sorts of claims on us? Parents of new born infants quickly learn what their child’s cry demands of them. University students know study can be a tough task master. The voice of an employer commands respect in the workplace. Walking through the cosmopolitan streets of Dublin city centre recently, I was struck by the vast array of voices on display. It seemed like there were people from every country in the world there with their own distinctive contribution to make to this international symphony. Even the election posters that haunted the scene spoke so loudly. Many aspiring politicians have catchy slogans promising to give us a voice in whichever council chamber they are elected to, whether Dublin City Council or the European Parliament.
It can be difficult to discern what is best for us amid all these competing voices, vying desperately for our attention. It can be hard to listen to that inner voice calling out from the depths, in the stillness and silence of the heart. This voice is humbler than the ambitious voices those talent shows on television produce, yet it is more powerful. It is more loving than the adoration of star-struck fans captivated by the hype and glamour of the latest pop idol. This inner voice trumps all others, if only we had ears to hear.
“Come, follow me” is its simple cry. It does not promise nights of uninterrupted sleep to those parents or stress free revision to students at exam time. It does not promise more authority in the workplace for employees or the utopian ideals some politicians would like us to buy into. In fact, it is valuable precisely because it does not make such unrealistic promises. This voice speaks the truth; it is the measure of reality. It is because this eternal voice speaks of the deepest truths of our humanity, with all its legitimate worries and challenges, that we can appreciate them more fully for what they are.
That eternal perspective, the one the Lord imparts to those who are attentive to it, is the seed of all vocation. Whether we are called to married life, single life or religious life, it is that hope in something more than what this life has to offer which makes this life worth living. God’s voice, among all the voices we hear during the course of our daily routine, is most worthy of our attention. Why? For without it, the other voices become voiceless. Only in relation to God can they have any meaning.
“O that today you would listen to His voice,” the Psalmist says, “harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95:7-8). God still calls people; there is no doubt about that. So if today you feel Him working in the depths of your soul, do not harden your heart. Adore Him. Be like sheep who want to be numbered among those who hang on the Master’s words, enthralled every time you hear His voice. He alone is the fresh and green pasture where our hearts find repose.
Gospel reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Vocation Sunday) – Year A (John 10:1-10)