March 22, 2017
Bishop LaValley’s homily for the celebration of the Feast of St. Joseph at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse
What is God whispering to you?
That’s a question Pope Francis asked a crowd gathered at St. Joseph’s Seminary down in Dunwoodie, during his 2015 pastoral visit to the United States. What prompted the question was the divine revelations that that seminary’s namesake, St. Joseph, experienced in his dreams.
Today’s Gospel (Mt.1:16,18-21,24) tells the story of one such dream about which we are all very familiar. It concerns the dilemma St. Joseph found himself in regarding his relationship with his betrothed, pregnant Mary and the whispers of a divine messenger. Joseph needed to make a decision. He acted upon what the divine messenger told him.
So, what is God whispering to you?
I thought this might be a helpful question to reflect upon on this occasion of celebrating your patron saint, St. Joseph who overcame fear and confusion by responding, with total trust, to the whisperings of God through a dream.
Do I have Joseph’s trust, particularly when fear and confusion seem like constant unwelcome guests in my life? Am I tuned in to receive and to act upon divine whispers? Do I dare pay attention to what God might be revealing to me?
I think one way of responding to this question is to ask myself: “Is God, God for me? Or have I become God for me? Or is some other person or object or a habit or an addiction, ruling my life?”
When I no longer pay attention to the voice of Me, LaValley almighty, I can begin to hear the gentle, soft voice of my Lord.Do I have faith enough in God’s very existence, to allow God to be God for me? I pray, in every circumstance of my life, for confidence and trust in God’s very existence. Then my ears and my heart begin to hear God’s voice because I know God is real and present. It seems to me, that’s raw, bare-bones faith - believing with every bone of body that there is a God, one God, and it’s not me.
And then I pray in every circumstance, for confidence and trust in God’s Providence - in God’s plan for me. You see, sometimes we can get so preoccupied with planning for our future, that they - my plans for me - distract me from being attentive to what plans the Lord might be whispering to me.
In every circumstance, I pray for confidence and trust in God’s power to protect me. I remember Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel (10:31), “So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
It is good every day to ask the question: With all my being, do I trust totally that God exists, that God has a loving plan for me, personally?
With all my being do I trust that God will protect me in every situation I find myself in?
My sisters and brothers in Christ, in your prayer - Know of God’s existence, His loving plan for you - you personally, and His desire to hold you dearly, keeping you close.
I’m sure that at times, like me, you probably find yourselves just a little confused, maybe a bit scared and unsure about what tomorrow has in store for you. Have you heard God whispering to you? What prevents you from hearing Him? Do you expect divine revelation during your prayer time?
Maybe you have low expectations when it comes to divine messages. What noise from “out there” drowns out any hope of the divine whisper from having a chance of touching my heart? Worries about personal health, community life, family problems, ministry woes get all my attention, perhaps. Worries and anxieties muffle my ability to hear any divine message.
What could possibly prevent me from hearing the message, misinterpreting the message, denying that there is a message?
Maybe I have low expectations for my prayer life. I don’t “hear voices” when I pray, but my heart does stir, in the quiet of prayer. Maybe I am impatient with God. I expect clear, quick results to my prayer or maybe I fear what Jesus might be trying to tell me, so I welcome distractions.
Maybe the divine whispers coming my way become distorted, ‘filtered’ by my own agenda, selfishness, pride, comfort, jealousy. My hearing becomes defective because what the Lord has to say may demand too much from me. My hearing may be very selective. I hear what I want to hear because I serve as my own God and I figure my plans are what God’s plans are or should be. Lent is a perfect time to take a look at our individual prayer life and determine, through the grace of God, where it might need some tweaking.
Doesn’t St. Joseph provide us with a wonderful example of paying attention to the divine messages that the Lord sends all of us?
Whether it’s at quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament, whether it’s in the midst of our ministry, perhaps it’s in the comforting words, witness or challenging words of another, we seek to do the Father’s will and follow Jesus.
Can you hear Jesus whispering to you? I wonder, what kind of “hearing aid” do I need?
Pope Francis wrote that “if the consecrated life wants to maintain its prophetic mission and its fascination, it must maintain the freshness and novelty of the centrality of Jesus…and show the beauty of following Christ and radiate hope and joy.” I would argue that that can only happen if my heart and soul is tuned into the divine whisperings. Blessed Feast Day everybody! St. Joseph pray for us.