I did not grow up in a religious household but my stepdad did on occasion read me parts of the Hebrew Bible. He was a secular Jew and thought it was important to have cultural familiarity with the stories, like knowing Shakespeare’s plays or great poetry. I remember wondering why God spoke to people in ancient days but did not speak to us today.
Jesus in the Gospel reading today speaks to his friends before the Ascension, and the Gospel speaks to us. But only does the Gospel continue to be a way that we can come to know God better, but also Jesus tells us about the voice of the Spirit. Jesus says that God never abandons us to our circumstances, however difficult they might feel. Instead, God gives us the Spirit, a guide to accompany us as we go through life. Sometimes Jesus uses the language of the courtroom—an Advocate. Imagine that you are struggling with a situation and God says—okay, I’ll send you my best defense lawyer; a person of immensely good counsel, wise and discerning. This person will be there to see you through.
Each of us has an Advocate, an inner voice by which God draws us towards love, peace, kindness, and wise action. It’s not that I can know God’s will or mind in its vastness. I am only human and not God at all. Rather, when i genuinely and sincerely offer to God a willingness to cooperate with God, and to let God be more in the lead than myself, then my own limitations get less in the way, and God can use the best gifts within us to accomplish wonderful things.
I can think of instances in my own life when I tended towards defensiveness or fear, and God’s gentle speaking to my heart counseled being wiling to be more vulnerable and to trust instead of to defend. The result was reconciliation and mutual peace. What a beautiful gift. Or I have sometimes doubted whether I’d be capable to undertake writing another book or taking on an entirely new teaching project, but then came that reassuring interior voice that I would not be alone and could take things step by step. God provided the reassurance to get started and a sense of call.
In this time of pandemic, we can all benefit from taking time in quiet each day to set aside our fears and to listen to what God has to say. Spend a little time in quiet. Where is there a sense of reassurance? Where a call to action? A call to quiet contemplation and letting things just unfold naturally? St Ignatius of Loyola gave us guidance as to how to recognize the voice of God: does it grant us peace, joy, love, a sense of freedom or things being aligned? Then it likely is of the good spirit. Voices or inclinations that come out of fear, anger, confinement, or a prideful need to assert myself are not of God. For bigger decisions we can also get good counsel from those who we think are wise and test out the spirits through conversation with trusted mentors, partners or friends who know us well.
God is engaged in a cooperative project with us in the unfolding of our lives. One great advantage of these days of pandemic is that we can take the time to slow down and enjoy some time with God, maybe time in nature, or slow time with the ones we love in order to hear God’s gentle and loving voice that is always advocating for us to bring forth our best selves for our families and communities, and for the world.