Here we are in late August, nearing the end of a summer unlike any other we have experienced. Many of us pine for the experiences of the previous summer during which graduations, Confirmations, weddings, vacations and other communal gatherings and celebrations were taken for granted, but now seem like a dream. While we have adapted and adjusted to live within the COVID19 pandemic, we have also had to come to terms with our limitations.
Trying to make sense of our present reality, we hear from lots of voices who, exercising some authority, are asking us to make sacrifices and conduct ourselves for the greater good. Unfortunately, not all these voices agree with each other and many offer contradictory views. For many, these conflicting voices and views are not exclusive to elected officials and public health authorities. Sometimes differing views manifest themselves within the smaller circle of family and friends and even within ourselves.
Our gospel today provides us guidance on how to discern the voices we should be attentive to. Jesus asks his disciples (and us) “who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15) Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Son of the living God comes not from human authority but from God directly. For Peter to “hear” God, he had to create a space in his heart to be receptive to God’s message. This required him to block out other distracting voices including his own internal voices of doubt. You may recall the gospel from two Sundays ago when Peter tried to walk on the water toward Jesus but started sinking when he doubted Jesus’ message and authority (Matt 14:2233). Jesus commissions Peter to be the rock of his Church not because Peter came up with the correct answer, but because Peter was willing to see past the limitations of human authority and seek the greater wisdom that only God can provide.
Listening for God’s voice amidst our distractions and doubts is not easy. The demands of juggling work, school and family often within the physical confines of isolation within our homes does not seem to allow for any time for us to hear God’s voice. Also, we have become so accustomed to the constant barrage of news and social media that it is difficult for us to spiritually “sit still.” Like Peter, we are invited to listen for the authentic voice of God for the answers that will guide us through the current storm we are experiencing.
Doing this requires setting aside some part of the day for prayer and reflection. This will seem like an impossible task especially for those of you with children at home just starting up the fall term having to start the school year via online and virtual instruction. Bishop Robert Barron, in a homily he shared during a recent Confirmation liturgy, suggested a simple but powerful prayer. Whether you are experiencing a moment of happiness or a time of great challenge, praying “Come Holy Spirit” is an effective way of inviting God into your life.