“We too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the Word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the Word of God, which is now at work in you who believe” (1 Thess. 2:13).
This Sunday, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, is the celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God. A few years ago, Pope Francis called for us to commemorate the Word of God in a special way on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time that we might have a renewed focus on the great gift of the Scriptures.
The Bible is God’s Word; in a sense, it is His “love letter” not only to humanity as a whole, but to each one of us individually. There is at each moment in the Scriptures a word of God specifically for each of us at that time of our lives. Have you noticed that sometimes a story or passage from Scripture that you have heard your entire life suddenly speaks to you in a new way, almost as though you were hearing it for the first time? It is God Himself speaking to our hearts in a fresh way in those moments, seeking always to draw us closer to Himself.
God speaks. Jesus is, after all, Himself the Word of God made flesh. It is not only to the saints gifted with special visions that God speaks, nor is it only to priests or to sisters in convents. He longs to speak His word to each of us in the depths of our hearts. This life of personal prayer with Him — not only speaking to Him but listening to Him speak and allowing His gaze of love to penetrate our souls — is an outflowing of the grace of our baptism. When He made us His sons and daughters, He made us for the life of contemplation.
His word comes to us in many different forms. He may speak to us through the advice or love of other people. He may speak to us in words that can sound like our own thoughts or in images He brings to our mind. And in a special way, He may speak to us directly through the Sacred Scriptures, either as we read the words of the Bible or as they suddenly come to our minds during the course of the day or during a time of prayer.
When you spend time in prayer, do you take time to listen? Or do you simply list off things you or others need? Intercessory prayer — praying for others — is good and important, but it is not the only type of prayer. We need to be willing to take the time to quiet our minds and our hearts so that we can hear God speak.
Perhaps if so few people today seem to hear God speaking to them in prayer, it is not because the Lord is not speaking, but because we allow for so much other noise in our lives: TV, radio, YouTube, Netflix, even — though inaudible — the busy-ness of texts and emails and social media posts. We are not quieting our hearts long enough to hear His voice. Let us be willing to listen for His unique word of truth for us in His “still small voice” in the depths of our hearts (see 1 Kings 19).
Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.