“IF today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
These were words that came out from my former pastor’s lips many years ago as he began his homily one Sunday mass. He kept repeating these words and expounding on them. They were words from Psalm 95; words that, I thought then, were an appeal for repentance and conversion of hearts.
Today, these words have a different meaning for me. They are words that ask us to listen to God’s voice, telling us that we matter a lot to our Father in heaven; that he loves us unconditionally more than we can imagine. They are words of affirmation rather than words of condemnation.
Listening to “his voice” means to trust the One who says that we are His beloved; that our worth to Him is more than our good deeds, our successes, our titles, or our accomplishments. He loves us even before any of our achievements; He loves us despite our weaknesses and limitations.
It’s the voice that the Samaritan woman heard from Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel (John 4:5-42): “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
It’s the voice that showed concern for a person’s salvation and well-being — that responds to the thirst and hunger for real love.
In a society that often tells us that looks, accomplishments, prestige, human perceptions, work, sex, alcohol, and other worldly pleasures are what would satisfy
God’s voice would never deceive or disappoint us. In our relationship with Him, we find comfort and peace. He takes away our restlessness and anxieties by whispering to us His assurance of forgiveness and salvation.
Last week, during a Lenten day of recollection in a parish, a man asked me what it means to be “justified” before God. Immediately I responded: “It’s to be in right relationship with God when we try to follow his will; when we are humble to say that we would despair without his love, forgiveness, and mercy.”
St. Paul tells us in this Sunday’s Second Reading (Romans 5:1-2; 5-8): “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. And hope does not disappoint us because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Indeed, God’s voice is full of promises of hope and love. So let’s not harden our hearts to listen to his voice. Let’s soften our hearts with absolute trust and humility. Let our minds not trick us to hear the voices of despair and lies about our true worth as human brings.
May this Lenten season bring peace into our hearts and confidence in God’s eternal love!
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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1999-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of ImmAaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.