Sean Coghlan S.J.

There is a beautiful passage at the beginning of the letter to the Hebrews. "In the past God spoke to our ancestors many times and in many ways through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son". From these words and from other passages in the New and Old Testaments I take it that all communication between God and man begins with God. If he hadn't leaned down and spoken to us, we could never have spoken to Him. If he hadn't opened himself to us and told us of his love for us, we would forever have been unsure of his presence and care. I say "unsure" because in many men's and women's hearts there are suspicions, hopes, almost certainties that God exists and is interested in them. Many have longed in a semi instinctive way for a God who cares. From the beauties of nature, from the peace and quiet of the night after a day of worry and suffering, some have formed the imperceptibly growing hope that there is One who gives meaning to existence and rest to tired, anxious minds and bodies. But, not unnaturally, men and women are slow to dare to say with complete confidence and conviction, "God", "Father".

Christ came among us and showed us by his actions, by his kindness and by his humanity that there is one who cares and that the One is God our Father. Through him our Father speaks to us. He speaks to us in clear and concrete terms. He tells us that he is concerned for us and for our happiness. He tells us that the sign of our love for him is the fact that we love and serve others. He gives us the general principles by which we can live honest, chaste and just lives. God our Father speaks to us through the things that his Son did; curing the sick, listening to the unfortunate, consoling the hurt, forgiving sinners, eating, drinking and working like any of us, enjoying life, suffering, dying and rising from the dead.

God the Father speaks to us in the Church which his Son established and keeps alive. Through the Church he guides, encourages and occasionally admonishes us. He speaks to us in words and actions in the Sacraments, blessing and making holy all the important moments of our lives.

God our Father speaks to us in the things that happen to us in our lives and he speaks to us when we go away to a quiet place to be with him in formal "prayer". He speaks to us in silence in the depths of our hearts as he spoke to his Son and our Brother in the hills away from the noise of ordinary life.

God speaks and we listen. This is no ordinary conversation and so we need to listen more than we normally do. But we can and should speak too. God will listen. To encourage, to strengthen us, in fact, even to make it possible for us to speak to the Father, the Holy Spirit has been sent into our hearts. Without the Holy Spirit we would not understand and mean what we say when we say "Father".

When we speak to God we can say what we want. We can thank God and bless God and praise Cod. We can ask him for what we want and what our friends want and what the world wants. We can complain. The better we have listened to God, the more familiar and confident will our speaking to Him be. St. Teresa of Avila was a great friend of God. Her ears and heart were always open (after years of partial deafness!) to His least whisper. She worked hard to spread His Kingdom. One night the bottom of the cart in which she was travelling fell out. She found herself sitting in the middle of an icy mountain stream. Tired, cross, very wet and very cold she was heard to say to her God: "If this is the way you treat your friends, I'm not surprised you haven't many of them". All that Jesus said about speaking to God our Father encourages us to be as confident and open and honest as Teresa was. We won't go too far. We won't become bitter and we won't become too impatient if we have been listening a lot.

God speaks to us. We speak to God. We listen to God. God listens to us. Communication has been established. The line is open!