Year B – 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Still, Small Voice of God

[Sam.3:3-10, 19; 1Cor.6:13-15, 17-20; Jn.1:35-42]

Do you have interior conversations with God?

St Teresa of Calcutta did. After she died in 1997, it was revealed that she had several private interactions with Jesus, particularly in 1946-47, while she was still teaching with the Sisters of Loreto in Calcutta.

On one occasion at Holy Communion, she heard Jesus say, ‘I want Indian nuns, victims of my love, who would be Mary and Martha, who would be so united to me as to radiate my love on souls.’

On another occasion in 1947, Jesus asked, ‘Would you refuse to do this for me? I cannot go alone to the poor people; you carry me with you into them.’

Mother Teresa responded to Jesus’ pleas by establishing a new congregation, the Missionaries of Charity, and doing extraordinary work in the slums of India.

Over the years, many saints and laypeople have had such locutions, including St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross. My dear father was another. Such experiences can serve to transform a person’s life in the most remarkable ways.

Now, consider the faith experience of the popular British musician and actor, Sting. He could well have been speaking for many Catholics today when he once said, ‘I was brought up as a Catholic and went to church every week and took the sacraments. (But) it never really touched the core of my being.’ [i]

That’s so disappointing, because God is always speaking to us, and not just in the Bible. He speaks to us through His creation (Ps.19:1) and through art and music. He speaks to us through the events of our lives and through the wisdom of our family and friends (1 Cor. 12:8-10). He speaks to us through the Mass and other Sacraments, and whenever we pray or meditate (Prov.8:34). And sometimes he speaks to us through our dreams (Mt.1:20; Acts 2:17).

Many people hear God’s voice not with their ear, but with their heart. It comes to them from deep within. Like an echo, it calls them, urging and encouraging them. But like a whisper, God’s ‘still, small voice’ (1Kgs.19:12) can be hard to recognise, so we need to train ourselves to listen carefully.

Today, Samuel (in our first reading) and Andrew (in the Gospel) are doing ordinary, everyday things when God speaks to them. Samuel is sleeping, while Andrew is just standing around. We should remember that, for God can approach us anytime. 

God also approaches Samuel and Andrew quietly, but he isn’t always quiet.  Sometimes there’s great drama. Sometimes there’s illness, tragedy or pain that draws us to Him. 

The ways each of us connects with God may be different, but it’s important to note that the initiative always comes from God. Jesus made this clear when He said to his disciples, ‘You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit…’ (Jn.15:16).

In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks Andrew, ‘What are you looking for?’ Henri Nouwen once wrote that too many people miss this important question. They miss it because they’re listening to all the competing voices in our world that are working hard to distract us.

‘Many voices ask for our attention,’ he says. ‘There’s a voice that says, “Prove you’re a good person.” Another voice says, “You’d better be ashamed of yourself.”  There’s also a voice that says, “Nobody really cares about you,” and one that says, “Be sure to become successful, popular and powerful”.’

But underneath all these noisy voices, Nouwen says, there’s a still, small voice that says, ‘You are my beloved, my favour rests on you.’ That’s the voice we most need to hear. To hear that voice, however, requires special effort; it requires solitude, silence and a strong determination to listen.

‘That’s what prayer is,’ Henri Nouwen says. ‘It’s listening to the voice that calls us my Beloved.’ [ii] 

Prayer is the main way God communicates with us, for prayer is essentially a conversation. But as in any good relationship, such conversation should never be a monologue. Rather, it’s meant to be a two-way flow of heart-felt thoughts, words and love, and it begins with God’s invitation to us, to ‘be still and know that I am God’ (Ps.46:10).

As St Catherine Labouré, of Miraculous Medal fame, once said, ‘If you listen to (God), he will speak to you also, because with the good Lord, it is necessary to speak and to listen.

He will always speak to you if you go to him simply and sincerely.’ [iii]


[ii] Nouwen, Henri. Bread for the Journey. Darton, Longman and Todd, London. 1996:21.