It was the first talk and the best. Not because I knew the presenter, but because he knew me--or at least, he knew where I am and what I needed to hear. Because it spoke not to my restless intellect--though it was a thoughtful talk--but to my heart. I don’t hear with my heart all that often. In the Eucharistic Congress, surrounded by 30,000 or so of my closest family and in His very presence, it all came together. How could it not?
He spoke about listening to the voice of God. I am blessed to be in a Church that doesn’t even bat an eye when someone talks about actually hearing that voice. And I am either blessed--or plagued--depending on how I feel that day--by the knowledge that I am surrounded by people who hear God and see Jesus as clearly as if He were their next-door neighbor. Not all the time, of course, but often enough to make me wonder what’s wrong with me that I don’t ever.
Not once, not ever. It is enough to make me question whether I’m really on the road or totally off the map. These friends hear clearly enough to make me want something that amounts to a spiritual hearing aid, see clearly enough that I seem to need my bifocal prescription changed.
Not all of us will really hear the voice in the physical sense, or so I reassure myself in the shadows of my doubt. But this speaker made me think about hearing the voice of God in the course of my day, in the little things that collide with my world and carry important messages, if only I realize that they do: a book on the shelf; an offhand comment; a sermon; a billboard.
One of the great gifts of the Congress was time to let intellect and will step aside and just experience: experience Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, experience Him in the people around me (even the ones who made me a little uncomfortable), experience Him in the music (even the music I didn’t care for, which for once did not bother me), experience Him in the images and in the words, and not worry about what the experience meant. Not worry about hearing the message, just enjoy the being.
I should have known that wouldn’t last. In the closing mass, I found myself losing track of the lyrics of one of the songs. The translation on the screens lagged behind the singers, and I found myself looking at the woman signing at the front of the hall. After a day of watching the interpreters for the deaf, I had picked up a few words, and to my amazement, they showed up in the song, enough to connect me to the lyrics and bring me home to the message again. I was hearing even though I didn’t know either language....
The voice of God. I spend my day with words, because I am good with words. It’s what I do. It’s my gift. Leave me unaccompanied in the presence of words long enough, and I’ll figure out what they mean. Repeat an Irish song to me often enough and suddenly an Irish road sign becomes comprehensible. Show the gestures of ASL often enough and I can follow what’s being said. Give me the four first, or second, or third, mysteries of the Rosary, and I’ll find a way to connect them. It’s the pathologist in me: show me enough of one thing, and I’ll recognize it sometime, someplace else, even when it isn’t expected. It’s what I do, it’s what I do....and perhaps, it’s what I am meant to do.
Which brought my eyes up to the banners on the walls of the Convention Hall, arranged in order of the Eucharistic Congresses, going back in time. I read them going forward with new eyes and increasing wonder: Come to me... The Real Presence..Stay with Me--these in years that I was restless in my Episcopal faith, casting about but not yet dislodged. Even so, it was the idea of the Real Presence of Christ that stood before me like a beacon, the Real Presence that would lead me to a little church on a mountain in North Georgia. To Live as a Christian People--the year that I was adrift, between communions, left depending on the kind care of Christians --of all kinds and persuasions--in a place I did not know, while my whole life was turned upside down and all I could do was stay with Him, or like Peter before Jesus reached out his hand, sink beneath the waves.
We are the Lord’s, the year we finally made it home to safe harbor in Peter’s barque, storms abated for at least a while. Until He Comes...the Food for Eternal Life..I am the Living Bread..As Grain Once Scattered....as my my understanding ind love of the Eucharistic Lord grew, without my realizing it, just because I was there, experiencing Him as I experience the sounds and gestures of language until, suddenly they make perfect sense...to Sanctify the Christian People.
To sanctify me. To set me apart for some work or another, that lies, like these banners, before my very eyes. Not mysterious, just asking me to follow the clues and put it all together, my vocation, mine and mine alone, discovered in the way I have sorted things out for years. Something I have prepared for all this time without knowing.
As I am, where I am, what I am, what I am doing. The Voice of God, that first called me to my husband, then to my children, then to Rome and now calls me again. He is leading me as He always has by the things that resonate in my very bones, the things I understand but tend to discount simply because I do understand them, to something new and different. I will not miss the signs if just use the tools--the gifts--the challenges-- He has already given me.
I discount them no more, I think I am finally beginning to value them. Someone explained it to me in clear and liberating terms. I have a job and it’s not a great mystery. If God has something for me to accomplish, He’s not going to make it hard to understand. He will speak clearly in a way that I will understand...it’s there in front of me like banners, speaking to me like a preacher, surrounding me like a crowd.
There is work to be done and I am called....and after all.....The Harvest is Abundant...