Imagine this scene for just a moment:

A small, bent over man. He looks like he might be homeless.

And he’s busy putting one stone on top of another. Slowly… Painfully… He seems to be trying to fix a beat up, broken-down building…

You’re curious, so you go over and ask him: “Hey, what are you doing?”

“I’m rebuilding this church,” he replies flatly, resuming his work:

You’re still confused, so then you ask: “But… why?”

He shoots a glance back and says with all simplicity: “Because God told me to do it. I heard Him say it to me from a Crucifix. So… here I am. I’m just doing what God told me to do.”

The man, of course, is St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast day is just a couple days away. This is one of the most famous stories from his life. 

As the story goes, he literally heard God’s voice speak to him from the San Damiano crucifix to go and “rebuild God’s church,” and in his simple act of obedience (just doing what he was obliged to do, as our Gospel said today) and all the subsequent total self-surrender to the will of God for the rest of his life, St. Francis did just that — He rebuilt and reformed the whole Catholic Church.

All because he heard God’s voice, believed what he heard… 

and then took action. He put his faith into action.

But let’s be honest: If you didn’t know this was the great — the famous! — St. Francis of Assisi — say you randomly came upon a dirty-looking man with ragged clothes and no money, stacking stones somewhere here in Williamsburg, and if you asked him why he was doing it, and he said: “God told me to do it.”

Would you believe him? What would your reaction be?

Could you believe him? Or would you think he was kind of crazy?

Thankfully as a priest, I have the privilege as a priest of hearing crazy stuff like this more often than you might imagine:

“The Lord told our family to leave our business and all our family and friends to move here to this city. So we did. We don’t really know why yet… but we trust Him.”

“I’m not Christian yet, but for some reason I felt like God was telling me to visit a Catholic church this morning, so here I am.”

“Jesus asked me go to seminary and I just couldn’t ignore His call. I had to listen to Him. I acted on the Voice that I heard.”

Statements like these are normal, or at least… they should be inn our Church!

Our psalm this weekend told us point blank: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”

Did you know that God actually created you to hear His voice? It’s actuality supposed to be… really common for you to hear His Voice. It really ought to be a daily occurrence even!

Do you believe that? Or do I sound crazy?

Are you convinced that God is still speaking from crucifixes?

I think this is a really big struggle for a lot of people: Can we actually hear God’s voice? A lot of people ask that. And I think that first reading from Habakkuk hits close to home — “LORD… I’m crying out to you, and You’re not listening! I can’t hear You. It feels like silence!” But then that reading turns doesn’t it? It said: “And then the Lord answered.”

The Lord does answer.

But sometimes it’s even uncomfortable and embarrassing for us to claim that we may have actually heard the Lord’s voice, isn’t it? It makes us feel vulnerable and a little bit weird.

Why is that? 

What lies have we mistakenly believed that harden our hearts against God’s voice and make us think we can’t hear Him?

Here are a couple of examples.

Perhaps we don’t think God would even want to speak to us. Maybe we assume He’s kind of quiet and distant from us. A clock-maker God. Or perhaps we think He’s just in a bad mood. I mean we’re sinners, right? So He’s probably angry at us, and now He’s giving us the silent treatment — a cold shoulder!!!!

If that was true, what kind of a Father would we have in God? 

No, He speaks to us: The Lord does NOT wait for us to get our acts together before He speaks to us!

Another way that we harden our hearts might be that we don’t believe it’s even possible to hear from God. Maybe we think those days are over and done. God spoke to the prophets… He spoke to the holy people in the Bible… he might have spoken to some really super holy saints in Church history… but not to me. Not to modern people. 

Maybe we even trick ourselves into thinking that we would be arrogant and presumptuous to think God would ever speak to us! “Just read the Bible, go to Mass, say your rosary: Be happy with that. Why expect anything more?”

But to that lie, let us remember Jesus’ beautiful words from the Gospel of John: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” They put their faith into action!

This echoes the verses we heard in our psalm today: “He is our God, and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides. Oh, that today you would hear his voice: ‘Harden not your hearts!’”

We are God’s sheep! And His sheep hear His voice…

They are created to hear His Voice.

If only we had more faith in this fact! Then we would cry out with the apostles: “Lord, INCREASE our faith!!! Help us to believe that this is possible here and now!”

And Jesus replies: “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Alright, so — God speaks to us. If you believe that, then the next question you probably have is: “What does God’s Voice sound like?” What is that experience actually like?

Well, we of course hear the Lord’s Voice in the Liturgy. We hear Him whenever the Scriptures are read or proclaimed. We hear Him in the official magisterial Teachings of the Church. Those are trustworthy places where we absolutely hear the Voice of God.

But in addition to these fundamental ways that we hear God speaking to us, I want to give you four other ways that God speaks to us — that Jesus actually speaks to YOU in your everyday relationship with God.

The first of these ways is “seeing.” 

God gave each of us an imagination. We have the capacity built into us to produce images in our mind’s eye. Try it right now — Imagine a mulberry tree being pulled up by its roots, and then crashing down into the depths of the sea. You can do that, right? You can SEE that!

Very often, God uses THAT faculty of your own personal imagination to speak to us! This is a major component of Ignatian prayer, where you imagine yourself in the midst of a Scripture story, and you invite the Holy Spirit to reveal whatever He wants to show you.

The second way, is “hearing.”

God has given us the ability to have an internal monologue. We can, in a certain sense, “hear ourselves think.” Go ahead and try THAT right now. Say your name slowly inside your head. Notice the thoughts that are going through your head right now: 

“Wow, Fr Anthony has completely gone insane”… “I wonder how the Steelers are gonna manage to lose to the Jets this afternoon?”

Take note of the “sound” and the “quality” of that internal voice. Believe it or not, God can speak to you through that voice. In prayer, when you least expect it, your internal monologue might just say something or think something that causes you to stop in your tracks and you KNOW… ‘That did not come from me. That’s from outside of me.”

Pay attention to these moments! It could be the Lord’s VOICE!

The third way is through “feeling.” Now, some people will probably immediately object to this one, but hear me out. 

God has created us both soul and body, right? Yes, we have a head, but we also have a heart. We aren’t brains floating in a vacuum.


God’s overwhelming presence often DOES has a physical effect on us, not abstractly, but deep down in our guts. We feel guilt in our stomach and we know we ought to go confess our sins. We feel elated and exhilarated at a beautifully answered prayer or a providential chance encounter, and all the angels and saints rejoice with us. We feel the pain of our neighbor, and out of compassion, we go pray with. We feel extreme peace — time seems to stand still — as we kneel down before the Tabernacle, and our hearts swell up with joy.

We are often far too suspicious of our bodily feelings. Yes, they’re often fickle, but they are certainly not always and everywhere to be automatically distrusted or dismissed. They are part of a broader fabric of the human experience, and we can pay attention to them.

The fourth way Jesus speaks to us is through “knowing.” This happens when we seem to just “have information” that we don’t know where it came from, and otherwise we wouldn’t have — and we say: “Wow, why do I know that about this person? Why do I suddenly just understand this situation? It’s like a “download” directly from God. He can do that! He’s all-powerful.

With each of these four ways, we must always test and discern. Not everything that pops into our head or our heart is actually the Voice of God. 

And so we ought to compare everything with what God has revealed definitively in Sacred Scripture and Tradition. If what you think you’ve heard from the Lord contradicts any of that, then reject it. 

But here’s the reality, guys — God is speaking today.

And so open up your hearts. Don’t let your hearts be hardened to the Voice of God. He wants to have a real conversation with each of us. It is the Father’s Heart to do so.

So we come to the Eucharist believing in that.

That God speaks to us.

That He’s still speaking from crucifixes!