TOO MUCH NOISE

Author: Fr. Michael Byron
May 12, 2019

I know something like this has happened to you.  Last week I met up with my aunt who is also my godmother, at a coffee shop not far from here.  I hadn’t seen her for a few years, and it was a chance just to catch up and tell life stories and laugh and enjoy a hot beverage.  But I could hardly hear her, and she could hardly hear me.  It was 9 in the morning and the music track in the place was so loud that two people sitting three feet across a table from one another were having trouble communicating.  Why do places do that?  Why do they deliberately create conditions in which real conversation is made harder?

It’s to create the impression of busy-ness and vibrancy and energy and urgency.  It’s all fake, and it’s not what we were there to experience.  But there we were, trapped amid all this noise, trying to hear the one voice that really mattered.  It was right there to be heard, but we had to fend off all this other sound in order to indulge the joy of being together.  Wouldn’t it be a blessing if the noise of human beings engaging one another were sufficient?  Wouldn’t it be more honest and natural?

Something similar is in play in the search to know and truly to hear the voice of God.  John’s gospel tells us about it today.  “My sheep,” Jesus says, “hear my voice and recognize me.”  But that encounter seems to be set amid conflict, because Jesus twice goes on to say that there are other voices out there who would threaten to snatch his precious friends out of his hand.  There’s a lot of contrary noise, a lot of fake enthusiasm.

The good news is that any such attempts are doomed to failure, because there is no such thing as subverting the will of God, once he has called and chosen us.  But the risky news is that God’s call requires some sort of response from our side.  His voice is near at hand, there to be heard.  But we have to be interested enough in cultivating a relationship with Jesus, dedicated enough to be able to recognize his voice amid all the others.  And that is up to us, whether to get to know him. 

Again this weekend we have the joy of celebrating 1st Communion day with our young people who have heard Jesus’ voice and have decided to make a public “Amen” in front of all of us.  They are not only the recipients of a special sacrament.  They are our most visible sign today of what all of us are meant to be and to do.  Watch them throughout our Eucharist, let their very public witness—and that of their families—teach us, strengthen us, and remind us of the kind of intentional listening and response to Jesus that is essential to the Christian life.  These young people call us back to what matters most, to whose voice alone can save us.  We all live amid so much noise, so many desperate attempts to attract our attention by being louder, brighter, faster, shinier than all others.  So many fake voices—and exactly one real one.  Our 1st Communicants have found it, and today are making a public “yes” to it.  A gift of hope to us all.  Let us be thankful, and joyful, both for what they are doing today, and for what our God is doing for us all the time. 

I know my godmother’s voice even in a racket in a coffee shop, and I will filter out (so to speak!) all those others.  That’s our task with our Lord also, and it’s not so hard to do as long as we stay close to him.  Eucharist is how we do that most assuredly, and so we welcome these young ones among us as together we keep learning how to hear well and to respond faithfully.


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