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Searching for peace? Listening for the still, small voice of God in a noisy world

by | May 31, 2021

There’s a grotto on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land where you can visit the cave in which Elijah once took shelter during a fierce storm. The passage in the book of Kings describes the scene in which the prophet hears the voice of God:

“Then the LORD said, ‘Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.’ A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD – but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake – but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire – but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, ‘Elijah, why are you here? (1 Kings 19:11-13)’”

The day our little group of Catholic journalists visited Elijah’s cave, we came upon a religious sister from the nearby Stella Maris Monastery kneeling before the altar singing the Ave Maria. Her lovely voice echoed off the ancient stone walls and we stood there quietly, listening and praying along with her, imagining what it must have been like for Elijah to hear that still, small voice of God in that very place, 900 years before the birth of Christ.

Nun sings Ave Maria in Elijah’s Cave on Mount Carmel in Israel.

Click here to see a brief clip of the nun singing: (11) Facebook

The really astonishing thing is that we, too, are able to hear that voice of the Lord if we listen with an open and humble heart. That’s because through baptism, we become children of God, and as Christians, we commit ourselves to following Jesus Christ. And if we’re following Him, we need to be able to hear His voice. It’s there, but it’s too often drowned out by the noise that surrounds us.

God speaks to us in the silence. Not the stony kind, but the meditative, intentional, prayerful kind in which we draw near to Him. It might be at church, but it might also be in your garden or your bedroom or even in your car. He speaks, but it’s up to us to listen attentively. Even in the midst of life’s fierce storms, His voice resonates if we quiet ourselves enough to listen. Perhaps it is when the storms of life drive us to our knees, weighed down by anxiety, that our hearts are even more open to His counsel.

I attended a beautiful Sunday Mass this week in which the well-proclaimed Word of God, heartfelt music, fragrant incense and vibrant preaching stirred my soul and pulled me closer to Him. And yet it was in those moments of silent reflection and thanksgiving after receiving Holy Communion that I heard the Lord speak in a crystal-clear voice. I was pondering the magnitude of His great love in dying for me, a sinner, who has let Him down so many times and who still struggles with fear. What a magnificent gift of love it was to hold Him in my heart and in my very being through the miracle of the Eucharist!

As I thanked Him, His subtle whisper resounded and I believe that though these words were meant for me, they are meant as well for every single believer:

“You were worth it. You ARE worth it,” He said of His death on the Cross. “I give you the power and the freedom and the grace to let go of the past, the pain and the fear. With Me dwelling in you, I empower you to live in freedom and truth.”

As I knelt there soaking it in, I was overcome with a sense of profound peace and gratitude. I felt my burdens and worries slip away. As the faithful stood for the announcements and final blessing, I was digging for a pen in my bag in order to capture the precise words of that clear voice. All I could find was an old ink cartridge sans the casing, but I managed to scribble the Lord’s words to me on the back pages of the May 2021 edition of Magnificat. (Of course, a perfectly usable pen was lurking in the zippered compartment of my purse, I later discovered. God does have a sense of humor.)

As I think back over the experience, in my mind’s eye, I’m back in Elijah’s cave, waiting on the Lord and what He has in store next. I don’t know yet, but I’m ready to listen and obey. Let’s do it together!

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