Understanding the Voice of God

August 3, 2023
Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
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“Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” Matthew 13:51–52

At times, Jesus’ words are difficult to understand. How well do you understand what He teaches you? He often teaches in figures of speech, as well as with parables. The passage quoted above concludes a section in which He speaks three subsequent parables. The third of these parables, the parable about the fishnet, is contained in the beginning of today’s Gospel passage. But just prior to that parable are the parables about the pearl of great price and the treasure buried in a field. Upon the conclusion of these three parables, Jesus asked His disciples, “Do you understand all these things?” After they affirmed that they did understand, Jesus gave an overview of the mission to which they had been entrusted. These soon-to-be bishops would become the new scribes who were instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven. Their mission would be to bring forth both the “new and the old.”

Many Church Fathers identify the “new and the old” as a reference to the Old Testament and the New Testament. Thus, the Twelve are being entrusted with the mission of being the scribes of the full revelation contained in what will become the full Bible as we have it today. Other commentators suggest that the “old” refers to the old life of sin and the “new” refers to the new life of grace. It will be the mission of the Twelve to instruct people in the full Gospel message, so as to draw them from their old life of sin to the new life of grace.

Though Jesus’ words can be difficult to understand from the perspective of a biblical scholar, the first of His words quoted above are very straightforward. “Do you understand all these things?” As we ponder that question in particular, try to hear our Lord asking that question of you. Though many scholars and saints of old have offered much clarity on what Jesus’ teachings actually mean, the question that Jesus posed to the Twelve must be answered in a more personal way for each of us. As you hear Jesus ask you if you understand these things, the answer you give is not primarily based upon whether or not you have sufficiently studied the text of His teaching and can rationally explain it as a scholar. Instead, the answer He is seeking is whether or not you can respond from faith. He wants you to say, “Yes, I hear You speaking to me, Lord. Yes, my heart is convicted by the words You have spoken. Yes, I understand what I must do. Yes, Lord, I believe.” The Word of God is alive and can only be “understood” properly when we allow our Living Lord to speak to us, personally, as we listen to His holy Word.

Reflect, today, upon this question that Jesus posed to the Twelve. As you do, hear Him asking you this question. How fully do you understand what God is saying to you, right now at this moment in your life? As you read the Scriptures, do you sense God revealing Himself to you? Do you understand what He wants of you? If hearing the voice of God is a challenge at times, then spend more time prayerfully pondering His holy Word so that His Living Voice will more clearly resonate within your soul.

My revealing Lord, You speak to me day and night, continuously revealing Your love and mercy to me. May I learn to become more attentive to Your voice speaking within the depths of my soul. As I hear You speak, please give me the gift of understanding to know Your will and to embrace it with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

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Featured image above: The Primacy of Saint Peter By James Tissot, via Wikimedia Commons