Do you hear the voice of God? Does God speak to people? If God does speak to people, how do they know it's God and if it is God, how do we know what He is saying?
It is my belief that God does speak to us. He desires for us to know Him, so it would make sense that He would find a way to reveal Himself to us wouldn't it?
In fact, God does speak to His people and He does so in a language as individual as the person in whom He is conversing with. The Venerable Pope John Paul II said in Theology of The Body that the body makes visible the invisible. God the Father, the Creator of Heaven and Earth and of man and woman, created the human person as body and soul. I contend we image God in that we are trinitarian beings in that we have body, soul and intellect and these three things are in union and communion with one another in such a way that truly reveals the gift that is man.
Our immortal soul relies on our intellect that is not just knowledge of information but is also like a spiritual lens that enables us discernment of truth when our conscience is engaged. Our bodies communicate through the 5 senses of the body. These 5 senses are the somatic means in which to gather information about the world around us. We hear, we see, we taste, we touch and we smell. So is it any wonder that God would use these very means in which He created us to communicate with us? After all, the sacraments are tangible outward visible signs of the intangible but real grace that is infused into our soul upon reception of the sacraments when we are in a state of grace.
God the Son is the lover and Bridegroom and through the marriage analogy we can enter more deeply into the mystery of how God Himself desires to enter into union and communion with us. Ultimately we were created to know, love and serve God so that we can be in union and communion with God in this world and in the Heaven.
God the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity and often communicates with us the gifts and fruits that aid us in our journey toward God and in holiness. The Holy Spirit also heals and inspires us but for purposes of this article I would like to focus on it as a means of which to “communicate”.
So how do we recognize when God is speaking to us and once we think we hear “Him” how do we know what He is saying to us?
For those of you who have asked the same questions or perhaps just feel the thirst or dryness in your own faith life be encouraged because we share this with Blessed Mother Therese who wrote about this in “Come Be My Light”.
I want to share with you my own experience in “hearing” God in hopes that you might recognize a similarity in your own life and perhaps discover where He may be speaking to you thus enabling you to enter into your own conversation with God.
We have already asserted that we are comprised of body, soul and intellect. If the body communicates with the world around it through the senses then we can agree that the things we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch affect our thoughts and consequently our souls. One example, which may make this more clear is the sacrament of baptism. As Catholic Christians we believe that the physical reception of baptism, which consists of the pouring of water onto the forehead (or submersion) of the washing water of baptism, along with the spoken words that include the words of “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” takes place externally and are therefore quite visible. However, another reality occurs simultaneously which is the removal of original sin from the soul and the pouring in of grace to the soul as it is received into the body of Christ, which is invisible. So we see, the body makes visible the invisible, we see this clearly when we contemplate the sacraments.
For me, the senses have brought images, music, movies, smells and the like that have left lasting impressions on me. Growing up in the 80's I was affected by shows like “Ferris Bueller's Day Off”, “The Breakfast Club”, “Pretty in Pink” and more. I recall it affecting my moods and my thoughts and relationships. “Pretty in Pink” inspired me to be unique and brave about who I was regardless of what other people thought was cool or popular. The themes song from “The Breakfast Club” affected many kids my age who saw it as an anthem for embracing our own greatness in all it's complexity regardless of social status of the hierarchy of High School that seems to want us all to conform or else suffer the consequences.
My childhood and adolescence was quite dysfunctional and I escaped from the world through listening to music or watching movies every free moment I had. No wonder I had pictures, lyrics from music or lines from movies randomly running through my mind often interrupting my train of thought or conversations I had with others. In fact, I was aware of this at the time and dismissed it as being what we now call ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. If you have seen the recent kids movie “UP” that came out in 2010 I would be like the dog who at a moment notice would break conversation and scream “Squirrel!” then look back and say “What was I saying?”
So imagine my surprise when last year at a retreat I discovered this was actually God speaking to me. Let me explain. Last summer I went on a retreat in which I confided in a good and Holy counselor that I needed his advice to overcome my judgmental attitudes towards others. He asked me to explain what I meant so I clarified by sharing a specific example. There was a woman on the same retreat that I felt I was judging because whenever I was around her I would begin to see pictures of her in my mind doing things that were scandalous and I felt a great pain and ache in my soul whenever I was around her.
After I explained the nature of what those things were that I saw, he asked me if this kind of thing happens often. I told him that in fact, it was a regular thing but did not happen with every person I met.
What he said next surprised me.
“Have you ever asked the Holy Spirit if the pictures or thoughts were from Him?” he asked me very seriously.
“No.” I said, yet began to truly ponder this concept. As instantly as I pondered it, the Holy Spirit answered the question. It was as if a veil that I did not even know existed, was lifted from my mind. In that very moment, I understood that the images I was having about this woman, were not my judgments of her but were actually her own judgments about herself that were of a particular suffering she was undergoing. It was as if I felt her pain. (I am seeing another cartoon movie called “Fern Gully” in which the little fairy says to Zach “Can you feel it's pain?”). When we are joined in the mystical body of Christ why should it surprise us that the Holy Spirit could give us the gift of discerning each others pain so that we can give our yes to Christ and in this yes, become the hands and feet in which for Christ to bring Himself to those in need and to those who are suffering or crying out to Him?
Caryll Houselander speaks of this very thing in the book “The Reed of God”. She stresses that God Himself ordained it to be that man would play a role in the redemption of the world. God could have saved us in anyway He chose yet He chose to do it our own participation. It began with Christ's redemption on the cross providing the immaculate flesh of Mary to be conceived in St. Anne's womb and then for Mary's fiat or yes to God the Father and creator of all to overshadow her through God the Holy Spirit and The Word, was made flesh and became incarnate in her and through her so that God the Son could reveal the trinitarian love of God by demonstrating it with His own yes on the cross. On the cross we see God the Son, after having received the gift of love from God the Father, give Himself back to the Father as a gift in love and the fire of the love that burned between them (The Holy Spirit) was so great it became fruitful.
Without going into to much detail, let me just tell you some of what happened for it truly was a beautiful thing. On of the pictures I had been seeing in my mind was of her through a frame or square shaped box and within it I saw what appeared to be going down stairs to a place with graffitti spray painted on the gray cement walls. It seemed to me like something I had seen in a movie where prostitutes walked in a bad part of New York City. Once I realized that perhaps God was asking me to go to this person (and once I gained the courage to do what I was being invited to do) I approached this woman and shared with her what I saw and what I felt and then what I thought it meant (I was supposed to share with her that God's love was an ocean of mercy in which the depths were unfathomable, no sin to great for Him to heal and that He loved her). Although the images made no sense to me, they did to her. It seems that this woman had been struggling for years against past addictions that had led her to do things that still caused her pain. In fact, some of these things were done in the basement of slum apartments in New York City.
This was an affirmation to discover that what I initially perceived as judgment, was in fact, a sharing in the suffering of the mystical body of Christ so to inspire charity, mercy and prayers for someone who was under intense struggle and oppression from the enemies constant “reminders” of their past.
Since this episode I have had many other interesting “conversation” with the Holy Spirit. This particular one was an invitation for me to bring Christ to another, but many have been an invitation extended to me.
You know how you listen to a song or recall a line from a movie and you are instantly placed back into a distant memory that comes with it an intense feeling or concept? Well, this was for me, a language that God used to capture my attention. In it, I began to ask for the Holy Spirit to reveal if there was anything in this sudden thought, song, picture or line from a movie that was meant for me in that particular moment and if so, what would He like me to know?
I began to hear a tender, loving and merciful savior that I am still in awe of for His ability to work through all of my flaws and my brokenness. In fact, even in this He revealed a level of Merciful love that makes me swoon to think of it. I once asked in prayer, why God used this means to reveal things to capture my attention. I felt that God was saying that because I was physically , sexually and emotionally abused throughout my life, He wanted to be very gently with me so that I would be given a chance, once receptive to it, to hear His love and mercy for me in His requests to grow in holiness. To just reveal to me straight forward “Hey! Christina ! You lack self-discipline and charity for your neighbor!” would have been like receiving a scourging instead of a loving invitation.
Truly our God is an awesome God and He speaks the language of the individual. Ask God to reveal to you Himself to you and then begin to pay attention to the things that seem to just “pop-up”. Perhaps, like me, you said-”Why did I just say that, think that, do that?” Then ask the Holy Spirit was that you and if so what do you wish me to know?” For those of you who desire to hear God, yet nothing of what I have just said hits home, do not despair. God speaks so many languages , even yours. Pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe that she give you the gift of receptivity, then listen with your body and with your soul as you read scripture, meet people, sing and pray. You will not be disappointed.
Copyright 2011 Christina King
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