4th Sunday of Easter Bulletin Reflection by Paul Nicholson

In 2000 I got rid of my TV. It was a transition year as I moved from a rental into my first condo and I wanted to make a fresh start. A sense of clutter had crept into my life in the years following college and as I planned the organization of a new home it felt right to reconsider the many competing claims on my attention that crowded around me under one roof. Affordable TVs back then were not nearly as flat and enormous as they are today but they could make just as much noise and babble-ry which is why, in my de-cluttering mode, it was time to turn it off. I had grown intolerant of the clamoring voices of the TV. I was no longer listening.

Today my home remains without a TV. I do not miss it. It is much more quiet now than it was in 2000, except when I turn on the radio in the morning – you do remember what a radio is, don’t you? - a sort of box-like apparatus with a couple of knobs and switches, and an aerial to pick up the signal. But I digress. My home is appreciably more quiet now, but the outside world I navigate through has become much more noisy. There are many, many voices that I hear throughout the day – most are disembodied, or just talking heads – often making entirely contradictory claims, or insistently suggesting that I need something to be happy, rich, with-it, thin, glamorous, etc. It would seem the clutter that once pervaded my living room simply moved out and spread like wild fire in the world around me. The louder it becomes, the more resolute my TV-less mode of being: I am unyielding, defiant, and unrepentant.

However, today’s readings give me pause.

It is apparent that God’s voice is out there too, mixed in with all the clamor and hype.  Paul and Barnabas speak out in the thick of things in Antioch, to the delight of the Gentiles and the consternation of the Jews, and John provides a troubling (for me) metaphor that I am like a sheep listening for the peculiar sound of my Shepherd. As I ponder these readings I am reminded that God does not silence every other voice in order to reach me and in fact, speaks to me through many channels, many voices, and in many ways. When I consider this I wonder if at times I have missed the voice of God because I would not, or could not, listen – that what was being said to me was too absurd, too challenging, too noisy, or just not what I thought God would/should be saying to me.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI (www.ronrolheiser.com) has commented on the search for God’s voice and offers several principles to help with our discernment among the myriad voices.

"The voice of God is recognized in what calls us to what’s higher, sets us apart, and invites us to holiness, even as it is recognized in what calls us to  humility, submergence into humanity, and in that which refuses to denigrate  our humanity.

The voice of God enters our lives as the greatest of all powers, even as it forever lies in vulnerability, like a helpless baby in the straw.

The voice of God is heard inside the gifts of the Holy Spirit, even as it invites us never to deny the complexities of our world and our own lives.

The voice of God is recognized in what appears in our lives as “foreign,” as other, as “stranger,” even as it is recognized in the voice that beckons us home."

The voice of God, it would seem, is forever found in paradox.