Do You Hear What I Hear?

Do you hear what I hear?

June 26, 2023

Seminarians, those preparing for the priesthood, frequently speak of having a “calling” to sacred orders. When I was in Seminary, the students often shared the moment, event, or path that led them to the desire to become a priest. Some stories were somewhat dramatic and could be tied to a specific time, others described a process, at times a lengthy one, culminating in them applying to Seminary. Each story was uniquely different and quite personal to each person. And even after years of arduous study, numerous liturgical services, private prayer hours, and participating in hours of conversations with those who would become lifelong friends, some concluded that they were not called to the priesthood. At the culmination of years at the Seminary, some were ordained, and others were never ordained. Each seminarian heard a different voice, a different calling from God, not only to enter Seminary, and “test” their vocation, but also discern when it was time to ask for ordination from the bishops. The same God was speaking differently to each of us, and we each heard different things, and acted in different ways, based on what we heard.

In the Bible, we read about Abraham, the patriarch, hearing the voice of God, asking him to do something that all of us today, would find incomprehensible. President Obama observed this unusual form of communication from God in a speech:

“Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded…But it’s fair to say that if any of us…saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be.”[1]

The experiences that each of us live, the inner voice that we hear, and our conscience, can be gifts from God. To be sure, discernment is vital to determine if our experiences, our feelings, our conscience, and the voice that we hear are indeed from God. Each of us has experienced times in our life when we have made choices or said and done things that were not holy or appropriate for a moral, God-created person to do. For that reason, God asks us to review our lives daily and through prayer and reflection determine if we made the right choices and determine if we are on the right path. We do not do this in a vacuum, but as part of a family, group of friends, our superiors, and the Church. Ultimately, especially when there is conflicting advice, we must listen to our inner voice, as Abraham did, and determine if what we are hearing is a gift of grace. “The Greek word charisma comes from the word charizesthai (χαρίζεσθαι) to favor or a gift, which comes from the noun charis, meaning grace.”[2] What we hear can be a favor, a gift, and a grace.

Many LGBT individuals have heard from people that we are possessed by evil, in need of repentance because of our “choice” to be LGBT, been discriminated against, maligned, and some have become the victims of horrendous acts of violence, even death. Those that have committed such atrocities against us do so because they do not know or reject the charis – the grace that has been given to us, to hear a different, unique voice from God. Treasure the gift you have heard and received as a grace from God.

[1] Quoted in “Moral Tribes” by Joshua Greene, The Penguin Press, 2013.

[2] Merriam-Webster Dictionary

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