Recently, a friend of mine forwarded me a photograph of a museum display. I was surprised that items from my teenage years are already considered museum artifacts. I was a teenager in the 1980s and saw as a part of this historical display a Sony Walkman.
For those of you who remember that era, the Walkman was the first portable device that allowed you to place a cassette tape in a small player with headsets attached to your ears. You could literally walk anywhere and be in your own auditory world. You could listen to what you wanted when you wanted. You could always have a song or information pumping into your ears.
While we no longer see Walkman devices as in the past, there are new items that we use. They’re called wireless earbuds and they’re available in great variety. They are the smallest of implantable devices that are placed inside the ear. With these devices, you can move around and listen to any audio file, music, podcast, news story, etc. It’s a way of keeping our ears and minds inundated with voices.
With so many voices constantly penetrating our ears, it’s hard to quiet down and listen to the one voice that matters: Jesus Christ. We know that the voice of the Lord brings love, compassion, healing, truth, peace, guidance and hope.
We read in the scriptures that Jesus speaks with authority: “Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority.” (Mk 1:21) We also hear in the psalms that “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Ps. 95)
The truth is that many of us keep other voices pumping in our ears with such frequency, that we leave no room to “hear his voice.” Building in times of silence to hear from God can be a little intimidating. We’d rather be accompanied by sound, even random, busy noise, than face silence.
We read in St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “I should like you to be free of anxieties.” (1 Cor 7:32) Yet, we lead anxious lives. Our anxiety is exacerbated when we constantly are listening to voices that can keep us worried and preoccupied, often about things over which we have no control.
Even if they are voices with which we agree, and which are correct, they can pull us down. The popular use of portable media is designed to keep us listening and preoccupied which over time can be over-stimulating and lead to anxiety. The tricky thing is that media content producers want to keep us listening and churning through more content. The more we listen, the more clicks a website gets – the more advertising revenues come in for the producers of such content. The profit margin of content producers grows with listeners, so the content is designed to encourage us to keep listening to voices other than the one that matters.
The Lord calls us to something more, to something very beautiful. The way to ease the anxiety in our lives is to give him a little bit more time. Can you give the Lord two minutes of quiet prayer a day? Five minutes? Fifteen minutes? Perhaps, an hour?
The Lord wants us to place before him all those things that cause us anxiety. So many people are concerned about loved ones, family relationships that may be broken, financial stresses, concerns about the future and decisions to be made. These are very real and legitimate areas of concern.
The way to address these situations is not to avoid them by just pumping our ears with other content to distract us. Rather, we should take some time and place our hearts before the Lord, letting him know whatever concerns us and seeking his wisdom, guidance and divine intervention. It’s freeing to do this. When we name our anxieties, which is a way of naming our fears, then they lose some of their power.
My prayer for all of us is that we find a way to build some silence in our lives, a silence that will allow us to listen to the voice who comes with authority and love, Jesus Christ. Quiet down the other voices and listen to the loving voice of Our Lord.
Most Reverend Robert J. McClory
Diocese of Gary