Building a personal relationship with Jesus
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
A personal relationship with Jesus is at the heart of our Catholic Faith. Prayer and the reception of our Sacraments are the primary means by which we can personally experience the closeness of Jesus. This week I found a good article on prayer and I share part of it with you. Hear God Speaking to You – by Fr. Killian J. Healy “Many people never listen to God because they are not aware that He speaks to them. Yet, God does speak. One way to live in His presence is to acquire the habit of recognizing His voice when He speaks. If we do not know that God wishes to communicate with us, or the ways He has chosen, then our passage through life will be devoid of the most perfect of guides.
When does God speak to us? He speaks at all times, especially in prayer. Prayer is a conversation with God. But it is not a monologue. When we pray, then, we should also listen, because a good conversationalist is also a good listener. We do not pray well when we recite ready-made formulas quickly and distractedly. We act as if God has only to listen to us, and that we have no need to listen to the thoughts and desires that He wishes to communicate to us. He has promised, “If thou wilt hear the voice of the Lord thy God, and do what is right before Him, and obey His commandments, and keep all His precepts, none of the evils that I laid upon Egypt will I bring upon thee.” Unfortunately, many of us have never trained ourselves to listen to His voice. But, if we are to know God’s will, we must listen to Him and obey Him when we recognize His commandments. But how does God speak to us? God is a pure spirit. Unlike man, He has no voice. If He wishes to speak to us, He must use some means outside of Himself, adapted to our nature, by which He can communicate ideas.
He may use things we can see and hear in order to stir our imagination, or He may enter directly into our thoughts. God speaks to you personally: Does God, then, speak to man? How can we ever doubt it? How foolish it is to read all types of books and neglect the word of God! The Scriptures were not meant only for particular groups of people; they were meant for all men at all times. God is eternal; His words are eternal. Although He speaks to all men, He speaks to us personally. This does not mean that every person should take the Bible and interpret it according to his own fancy. No, the Church alone is the divinely appointed authority to guide us in the correct interpretation of the Bible. The Church encourages us to read it, because she knows that the word of God can enter into our minds and that God, in His own mysterious way, can teach the true way of life, the way of love and intimate union with Him. St. Ignatius of Loyola felt that God was speaking directly to him, when, on his sick bed, he read the words: “For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?”
But, we ask, is this prayer? It is at least the beginning of prayer. We listen to these words of Christ; we ponder over them; they awaken thoughts and desires within us. We begin to believe, to hope, to love. Our will becomes inspired, and we break forth in ardent affections, calling on Christ to help us, begging forgiveness, expressing gratitude, performing little acts of adoration —and surely this is prayer. We often read of visions, apparitions, and revelations in which God spoke to the saints. St. Paul on the road to Damascus is a classic example. And we read in the life of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque that, while she was engaged in prayer, Jesus often spoke to her of the devotion to His Sacred Heart.
Such conversations with God are not rare in the lives of the canonized. But must we in our conversation with God await the appearance of Jesus, of some heavenly voice or extraordinary apparition, some heavenly manifestation from God? Absolutely not. It is true that God does single out some chosen souls to whom He speaks directly and who actually experience the divine power working in them, but these are very few; it is not the way that God ordinarily uses. We should not even desire that God speak to us in this extraordinary manner. We should not expect it. Visions and revelations are not necessary for us to grow in deep love for God. We may fall deeply in love with Him and practice faithfully the presence of God, yet never receive any extraordinary
manifestations from Him. These are special gifts, and God gives them to whom He wills, and when He wills.”
This article is an excerpt from Fr.Healy’s Awakening Your Soul to the Presence of God, available from Sophia Institute Press. Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Paul and St. Michael, may our Lord help us to recognize His voice in
our daily life experiences!
In Christ through Mary,