Kevin was a young man who had graduated from college with a degree in accounting and was struggling to find employment in his field. No matter how hard he tried, he just could not seem to find a job which fit his skills and training. To make ends meet, he was forced to work part time jobs as a landscaper during the summer and preparing tax returns during the spring.
After three years of searching and still not having any luck, he complained about his situation to a friend over a beer. Listening to him pour out all his frustration and bitterness, the friend looked him in the eye and said, “You have looked everywhere and have not been able to find anything that suits you. Do you think God may be trying to tell you something?”
Kevin was not quite sure what his friend meant but it made him think. Maybe the reason he had met with such little success was that he was thinking too much about what he wanted and not enough about what God wanted. So he decided to start praying about his future career and to ask God to reveal His plan to him. Within a few months, he landed a job working for a non-profit organization. Though it was not what he originally had in mind, he found the work challenging and fulfilling. By placing his future in God’s hands and listening earnestly to what God had in store for him, he found his way in life.
When we are struggling, when things just do not seem to fit, when everything we try seems to go wrong, it is very often the case that we are not in the place God desires us to be. Sometimes we want a career or a relationship so badly that we will do just about anything to make it work. But no matter how hard we try it just seems to fall apart in our hands. That is when it is time to turn to God and ask Him whether what we are pursuing is really part of His plan for us. Then we have to trust that He will answer us and provide us with what we need to follow His way for our lives.
How can we listen to the voice of God? Today’s first reading gives us an important clue. Young Samuel hears the voice of God but mistakes it for his mentor, Eli. When he realizes that it is God calling the boy, Eli gives him some good advice. He tells him to pray, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.” Whenever we prayer, we should make those words our own. “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.” Then we have to simply trust that God has heard our prayer and will answer in His own way and in His own time. If God has a message for us, He will make sure we hear it. For our part, we have to keep our eyes and ears open looking for God’s answer. And we have to be ready to act on His word as eagerly as young Samuel who jumped right out of bed when he heard his master’s voice.
God speaks to us in many ways. However, most often He delivers His message to us through other people. It was true of Kevin, the accounting major, who needed his friend to remind him to make God a part of his plans for the future. It was true of young Samuel who was not familiar with the ways of the Lord and needed the more experienced Eli to advise him on how to listen to the Lord. It was true of Jesus’ first disciples in the gospel who needed John the Baptizer to point out that the Lamb of God was passing by. It was true of Peter who needed his brother, Andrew, to lead him to Jesus. And it is true for us. Most often, God will deliver His message to us through others. Sometimes it will be people we are close to such as family members or friends. Other times, it will be through total strangers. Whomever God sends our way, however, we need to be ready to listen and respond.
That is why if we are going to make any progress in following Jesus, we need to surround ourselves with virtuous Christian friends. We are not meant to follow Jesus alone. Each of us needs other Christians to be models of virtue for us, to encourage us when we fail and to give us advice when we are confused. A good way to find such friends is to become more involved in our parish. We are blessed with many members who are faith-filled followers of Christ and are willing to share their faith with others. Helping out with fundraisers, religious education or other activities is a way to meet such wonderful people. Also making a retreat is a great way to meet other people who share our faith in the Risen Lord and can inspire us to be faithful in our own journey. If we are serious about following the Lord and seeking His will, he will place such friends in our life to help support us along the way.
It is incredible to think that the God who created the universe with all its wonders and who guides the course of history knows each of us by name and loves us personally. He wants to speak to each of us, to tell us how much He loves us and to take us by the hand and lead us to a fulfilling life. Because He loves us, He places people in our lives to support, encourage and inspire us. For our part, we have to listen for His voice and be ready to respond eagerly when He calls. Just as He has given us His word to instruct us, so He gives us the Body and Blood of His Son to strengthen and heal us so that we can leave this place to follow the Lamb of God.