By Frank J Casella
If you have never experienced the presence of God, you may wonder how He reveals Himself. The Lord has many different ways of reaching out to His children, so the following is certainly not a complete list. But when you desire and know that Jesus is always near, He will choose the best way to connect with you.
God speaks. I don’t recall ever having heard the Lord’s audible voice, but I have experienced Him speaking clearly and forcefully to my heart. His communication is so unmistakable that those who hear Him remember the message and the reverent experience long after.
God sends a message. Sometimes the Lord lays on a person’s heart the need to get alone with Him. When this happens to me, God is usually saying He’s ready to give me this blog post, for example. It is unwise to ignore such urgings or even to delay until a more “convenient” time. Always do this as soon as possible — I have made the mistake of putting off listening only to discover that when I finally did slow down, the message was harder to receive outside of His perfect timing.
God makes His presence known through His Word. I recently meditated for several days on a scripture passage. I felt the prompting from God, as Fr. Larry Richards says to do, to open my bible and see what that page reads. You then write the verse down that speaks to you, and put it in your pocket to meditate on for as long as the Holy Spirit prompts you to do so. When I do this I knew that I’m in His presence because His Word was speaking specifically to my heart.
Believe the Lord is real and present in this world. He wants to share Himself with us so we can draw contentment, courage, and joy from His presence. To know what He’s saying, we must be willing to slow down and listen.
What do you listen to the most? Radio. Friends. The news media. People who you work with. Who has priority in who or what you listen to, God or someone else?
God’s plan is not the easiest, but it is the best. Have you asked God to show you His plan, will, and purpose for your life? How much time do you listen, or do you do all the talking, then get up? Often, when I feel it’s time to stand up that I’m done listening, it really means it’s time to listen deeper.
The concept called ‘Two Chairs’. This is where you sit across from an empty chair and see Christ as sitting there … and you listen. Give God time to speak. Other times I visit Holy Adoration at my parish and do the same, with the living Eucharist in front of me.
Some closing thoughts. Sometimes it can take several days before we get His message. Sometimes I feel this restlessness, and this is how God gets my attention. I’ve now been conditioned to know the prompting .. don’t rush it, but in time you will learn it. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it.
For example, recently with a project I was working on with some other people, whom I didn’t know their spiritual walk or ‘temperature’, I felt that restlessness. Like something wasn’t right. There was this lack of structure from the leader for the group. I din’t know whether to pull out before the downward spiral happened, as God provided me the wisdom to see this, or to stay the course and provide them the (spiritual) voice of reason.
A Catholic friend who I trust, and who had knowledge of this group, said to me in passing what an issue that group has and how there are too many bosses. I believe God used that to speak to me. I spent much time mindful and prayerful on my purpose with this project, and what to do. The Lord at the next meeting prompted my heart (some of you may call this your gut) how toxic and a distraction this group was to my life and His will for me. It was really my ego that wanted me to stay.
I was able to see this because I am always making progress to live my life as a prayer, to see people and circumstances through God’s eyes, if you will. This takes practice and testing all the time to be sure you hear his ‘voice’, and make regular and prayerful conversation with Him. Also confirm it with the words from the Bible and the Catholic Catechism, the more time we spend in those words helps us to learn through our Faith what the Bible is saying to us.
So, the ‘flag’ was raised during this meeting and I challenged this group on their character and integrity. With that, God spoke clearly through them how I should make my exit and not stay in it. We have to be careful, because, what He says to us may clash with how other people think. Other times he puts it on our heart to just remove ourselves quietly from the matter. This is why we need to make time to listen to ourselves think. What’s more important, ease and pleasure, or hearing from God? Even if it’s ten minutes a day .. think in pure silence.
Sometimes He will stop us when we try our own way, other times not. It all depends what He wants us to know, or the lesson to be learned. To do this, I have found, we need to make time to drain our brain of our own thoughts and what’s going on in our life at the time. My brain can be so busy at times I have a hard time ‘coming in for a landing’. But as the Bible says, more of Him and less of us. The world around us can be so distracting … if we let it.
Yes, faith without action is not faith. Yet, action without listening is blind faith. Jesus provides clarity and direction when we are on His agenda and not ours, being in tune in listening to the Holy Spirit is the key.
When we repent, or visit our priest for confession, then turn to Christ with our head, gut, and heart, He knows then we are truly listening and this often times is when He can speak to us. His time, not ours. Focus on the Crucifix.
How much time in 24 hours do you listen to Jesus?
Frank J Casella is a photographer, and Executive Director of Catholic Men Chicago Southland. An Catholic Apostolate of Reverend Bishop Joseph N. Perry of Chicago.