How do you listen for God's whisper?

Readings: 1 Kgs. 19.9-11; Ps. 85; Rom. 9.1-5; Mt. 14.22-33

God told the prophet Elijah to go outside his shelter on Mount Horeb, and to watch and wait for God. Great things happened. A huge wind blew, but God was not in the wind. An earthquake shook the ground, but God was not manifest in the earthquake. A fire erupted, and God was not present in the earthquake. "Then there was a tiny whispering sound." God was present there.

When do you hear God's whisper? We won't hear any whisper if we are surrounded by noise. Quiet seems to be a condition for hearing God's whisper. Quiet is an external factor and an internal factor. Even if no external noise surrounds us, if our interior life is noisy, busy, full of distractions, and loud with different voices contradicting each other, then we can't and won't hear God's whisper.

The psalmist speaks for God who says, "Be still and know that I am God." Priests and sisters are required to make an annual retreat, and many lay people choose to make retreats in order to be still, to be quiet, in order to hear God's whisper.

We are all busy people. We have families to care for, physically, financially, socially, affectively. Whether you are a parent or grandparent, or aunt or uncle, family life keeps us busy. Imagine the excessive quiet of people who have no living family members. We have jobs to go to; the one thing worse than having a job is having no job. We have homes to keep in good repair and good appearance. We have good friends with whom we want to chat and enjoy life, and with whom to do fun things. God wants us to do these good things, these busy things, which are at times, noisy things.

And God wants us to be quiet at times in order to hear what God might be saying to us. Granted, it's difficult to find quiet externally, and to be quiet internally.

What already works for you? Is it the early morning, or late night? Is it waking up, and lying still? Is it driving alone in the car? Is it sitting on your front porch, or in your backyard? What works for you? Find your quiet place: geographically, chronologically, and emotionally.

What works for me? Primarily, when I wake up each morning, I lie in bed, and thank God for the new day. I have a routine of prayers that I speak to God: Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be, and some others. Honestly, I think I pray well when I'm lying flat on my back. I slide out of bed, and kneel at my bedside as I say my Morning Offering, which I made up myself. "Dear Lord, I offer you this day, all my thoughts, words, deeds, and desires in praise of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Paul, and St. Vincent de Paul, and all the saints." And then once my day gets rolling, my mind gets working, my spirit becomes occupied, and sometimes, pre-occupied, and my early morning quiet leaves me.

Some nights, I like to sit in my Lazy Boy chair, and listen to religious music. And I find quiet there.

The benefit of finding quiet is finding God. In finding God, we meet our life's best friend, our everlasting friend, the person who created us, who understands us best, who forgives us and encourages us, who dwells within us by his grace. This encounter results in peace and joy.

So, I encourage you. Learn from Elijah. God spoke to Elijah not with great drama, action, noise. Rather God whispered to Elijah in the gentle breeze. Learn from the Psalmist: "Be still and know that I am God." Learn from Jesus, who the gospels inform us repeatedly left the crowds that were seeking him, went to deserted places, e.g., mountains, lakes, and the desert wilderness, not to be alone, but to pray to and with his Father in heaven.

What works for you? Where, when, and how do you find quiet? Where, when, and how do you listen for God's whisper?

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley