01 February 2015

If Today You Hear God's Voice . . .

Every day the Divine Office begins with an invitatory psalm. In other words it begins with an invitation to pray, to open ourselves to the effective voice and Word of God. One of the verses of psalm 95, one of the standard invitatory psalms reads, "Today, Listen to the voice of the Lord: Do not grow stubborn as your fathers did in the wilderness. . ." There is a very clear sense that the voice of God is there to be heard. Our part in the prayer God wills to accomplish in us is that we commit to allowing our own hearts to remain open and obedient, that we not allow them to "go astray" lest we not "enter into the rest of God".

At Eucharist today we sang a song I tend to like a lot. It is a version of psalm 95 and the refrain goes, "If today you hear God's voice, harden not your hearts." But today it struck me as a terrible bit of catechesis. I found myself thinking, "That should really say, 'WHEN today you hear God's voice, harden not your hearts!'" I suppose I was feeling a bit cynical because I know our tendency to hear the "if" in this sentence as though it means, "if, as is remotely possible" you hear God's voice today. . .. We are so used to thinking that God only speaks to the elite and that that only happens in unusual, even bizarre ways, that the notion that God's voice is an "ordinary" everyday, everyplace kind of event; the refrain "IF today you hear God's voice, harden not your hearts" sounds like something we can blow off as hardly compelling or urgent, much less as a certainty!

I wonder how often we consider that if we adopt that way of thinking about God's presence and activity in our world we have already hardened our hearts? We have already closed ourselves to the God who reveals himself definitively and exhaustively in the human Jesus. We have already dismissed the God who penetrates the ordinary with his presence and power to transform it all into an extraordinary sacrament of his love.

The invitatory is obviously supposed to encourage us: "Encourage each other daily while it is still today (Hebrews 3:13) and certainly the refrain, "If today you hear God's voice, harden not your hearts" does that. But I believe a better translation and certainly something my own Camaldolese Benedictine heart resonates with is the alternate, "WHEN today you hear God's voice, harden not your hearts!!" God's speaking himself within and around us in every "ordinary" bit of reality is not a remote possibility. It is the surest thing in our lives!