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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS | We need to recognize and choose to follow the voice of Jesus

The more we listen to Jesus, the more we can share the richness of His voice with others

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The sheep follow Him because they recognize his voice. (John 10:4)

Throughout this week we have repeated references to the word of God: hearing the word, following the word, preaching the word.

We often take that notion for granted: “the word.” But we shouldn’t! It offers us crucial insights into what discipleship means and what evangelization requires.

Let’s think about this for a moment: What voices do we hear? There are many voices that speak to us and in us: the news media, advertising and “influencers;” friends and family; conscience and ego; the enemy of human nature; and the Holy Spirit.

The crucial question is: Which of those voices do we follow?

Jesus heard many voices: friends, culture, the law and prophets, Satan. But amidst all the competing voices, He recognized and chose to follow the voice of the Father. Similarly, amidst all the voices we hear, we need to recognize and choose to follow the voice of Jesus. How do we recognize His voice?

In terms of human listening, we know what the voice of our mother or father sounds like. We know the voice of a beloved friend. We know the voice of our child. And what we’re listening for is not only the words they say but their tone, their body language and their facial expressions as they speak. All of those things convey the meaning of their words to us. (Perhaps that helps to explain how Mary Magdalene recognized the resurrected Jesus, in the Gospel of John, when He simply called her by name. She knew that voice!)

Spiritual listening is even richer than human listening. But, because it’s richer, it also requires closer attention.

So, for example, we may think that our sense of determination is rooted in listening to Jesus. But, is it determination with patience or determination with impatience? We may think that our service work comes from listening to Jesus. But is it service with resentment or service with joy? Is it service waiting for praise or service that’s content with a pure gift of self? We may think that our hard work comes from listening to Jesus. But is our hard work done alone, or with God? Does it result in a sense of isolation for ourselves and others, or does it draw people together?

Providentially, we celebrate the feast of St. Mark this week (April 25). Isn’t it interesting that the Church has maintained the fourfold Gospel throughout the ages? We might have harmonized all the Gospels into a single narrative. Some tried! But the Church has maintained that there’s something important about having the different Gospels. They tell a single overarching truth. But each captures something essential about the voice of Jesus. We have to learn to hear the quality of His voice through them.

We don’t hesitate to attend a two-hour concert, movie or sports game. Do yourself a favor: Take two hours and read or listen to or watch a dramatic performance of the Gospel of Mark in its entirety. It will help you listen more richly to the voice of Jesus and therefore recognize it more readily. And the more deeply we learn to recognize the voice of Jesus, the more we can share all its richness with others.

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