Holy Week

04-13-2014Weekly ReflectionDeacon Stephen

Dear Parish Family:

Priests and deacons pray the Liturgy of the Hours (the Divine Office) every day (or at least parts of it). The very first prayers recited each day are called the Invitatory. For the first five weeks of Lent, one of the two Antiphons prayed as part of the Invitatory goes like this: "Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts."

Now as a general rule it is probably not a good idea to harden your hearts, voice of the Lord or no. Nonetheless, most of us certainly do harden our hearts at certain times, perhaps because it is easier to deal with emotional or difficult situations if we put up a stony facade. And so, in moments of weakness, I have found myself walking in the opposite direction of a parishioner who looks like he or she wants to talk about something important to them. (If I have ever done this to you, I ask your forgiveness! ...and for a second chance.) In the same way, we might ignore a co-worker or friend who is hurting and needs a shoulder or sympathetic ear; we might give wide berth to a homeless person on the sidewalk as we walk by; we might persist in fooling around on the computer when we know our spouse has been waiting for us to do something that is important to her or him that she/he asked us to do days ago.

If today I hear the voice of my spouse and yet harden my heart, how much worse is it to ignore the voice of the Lord? Now I will grant you that it is not always easy to tell when the Lord is speaking to us. But we can make it our business to be sensitive to the various ways He is contacting us.

We, of course, have the obvious examples of scripture (the actual Word of God speaking to us) and the sacraments (which make real Christ's presence to us). There is also prayer - which we know that the Lord hears, but which is not always answered by Him at the time we pray. But keep in mind another often overlooked form of divine communication: we can often see and hear the Divine in other people. If we are sensitive and present to those around us, we can "hear" the Lord speaking to our lives. For example, I have heard the Lord speak to me of service and compassion in the actions of many, many strangers in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy. In another situation just before my father's death a few years ago, God "told" me - through the actions of my dad (during a fishing trip, no less) - about how I cannot successfully navigate this life using only my own skills and power...that I need the help of my heavenly Father. (Someday I am going to use that story for a homily.) If my heart and mind were not open to the possibility of God speaking to me in those instances...I would have missed it. And I would certainly like to minimize the number of times that I miss His voice.

So let us resolve to attune ourselves to those opportunities in life where we might hear the voice of the Lord. One perfect opportunity is Holy Week, which starts today. There is probably no other week of the year when He has more to say to us! I pray that we will open our minds... and soften our hearts...enough to be able to hear our Lord.

May God bless you - and speak to you in many ways - this holy season.

Deacon Stephen