Devout Catholics seek to learn more about God through various avenues, such as prayers, songs, spiritual reading, discussions, talks etc. Yet sometimes we forget that the study of our faith should lead us to an encounter with Christ. Last week my friend and I were reminded of this when we opened our hearts to God in the forest.
After dinner, we went to a nearby park for a walk. For about an hour, we followed the path along the creek as it meandered through the valley. We discussed various aspects of Church history, apologetics, the Saints etc. It was a great conversation but I felt that there was something missing.
A bit later, we came to another path that went up a steep hill. As we ascended the hill, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to shift the conversation a bit. Instead of simply talking about the Church, I asked my friend about his relationship with Christ and shared a bit about my own. The conversation moved a bit deeper and we stopped and sat down on a log near the top of the hill underneath a myriad of trees.
It was a very peaceful place and my friend suggested we turn to God in song. He closed his eyes and reverently sang an old hymn to God from a place deep within his soul. Struck by the beauty of the song, we both sat in silence for a bit and listened to God speaking to us in our hearts. I then closed my eyes and sang a song in praise to God. We paused again to listen to God and then sang some more. This pattern of singing and silence went on for a good while.
Afterwards. I was struck by the fact that as we had gone up the hill, our conversation had moved from discussing God to experiencing Him in song and the quiet of nature. The climb symbolized our movement from merely speaking about God to encountering Him in prayer.
So often, we put obstacles in the way of truly experiencing Christ in our spiritual disciplines. For example, you may commit to a Holy Hour once a week. However, you may fill up the whole hour with reading or reciting prayers quietly so that there is little time for God to speak to you. Additionally maybe you are so intent on finishing a great spiritual work that you plow through it and don’t stop and let God speak to you through the words of the author.
Often, there is no stillness in our prayer and very little opportunity for Christ to speak into our hearts. Even though it is good that we are spending time with Jesus t in prayer, it would be better if we carved out some time to listen to what He is trying to tell us instead of simply just speaking to Him.
In John 10:27 Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
As his sheep, we are not primarily called to study his voice or listen to people talk about his voice. Although these things are good, above all, we are called to quiet ourselves and listen to his voice asking him how we can grow in holiness to be transformed into the saints whom he has called us to be.
So as you think about the things that you do as a Catholic, ask yourself, do these things help me know the Shepherd? If yes, great, keep doing them. If not, consider ways to change your prayer routine or forms of prayer so that you allow God to speak to you. Above all, ask God to reveal himself to you and teach you how to pray; it is a prayer that He will surely answer.