When I was first in school studying Occupational Therapy I learned a new word: habituate. At first read it appears to be referring to a habit that one falls into, but this is not the case. To “habituate” in the world of rehabilitation means the ability to screen out various sounds and noises so one can focus better on a task. For example some students cannot study well under florescent lighting because in many cases there is a very low-level buzz or hiss that occurs. The average student can ignore this while attending to the task at hand, but some individuals with a diagnosis say of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) have a very difficult time blocking out this very small distraction. It keeps them from hearing or listening to what is being spoken of by the teacher or instructor. Focus is essential in life.
We’ve all spoken this phrase at one time or another when we are having difficulty focusing or trying to figure something out, “I can’t hear myself think!” Normally this happens when we are in a place where there’s a lot going on and we’re being pulled in many directions.
There are times when we need a quiet place and calm so we can think through some issues to act appropriately and sensibly. There is nothing more distracting than a radio program that isn’t tuned in properly or an Internet video that keeps “burping” or stopping in midstream. We can’t follow the gist of what’s being discussed or performed through a faulty transmission. This goes for the spiritual life too.
Jesus wants us to come to Him to find the answers we are struggling with in our everyday lives, but this requires we are focused spiritually. In the Gospel for the fourth Sunday of Easter He makes this statement using the analogy of a Good Shepherd and His sheep, “…and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” (John 10:3-5) This is not possible if the “static” of the world is not tuned out otherwise we become overwhelmed by secular noise. We need to hear Christ’s supernatural voice.
I would say most of us are beleaguered with news daily about Covid-19. The noise can be deafening and completely consuming. Yet putting the virus concerns aside it is quite easy to permit the daily challenges of life, the conflicting values of the world and all the secular approaches to the news to distract us away from the voice that really counts; the voice of the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ.
The goal of the Christian life is to become better and more tuned in to the voice of Jesus proclaimed by the true agent of grace and salvation, the Church of God. Getting to know the teachings and truths of the Catholic Church and spending time in prayer and quiet solitude attunes our spiritual ears to hear the voice of the Savior and Shepherd of our souls. For it is the soul and its spiritual condition that God is concerned about most.
Despite the overwhelming news about the corona virus and distress it can cause, we must pause from all the blaring news reports and all the statistics and carve out times of quiet reflection and prayer, trusting that God will speak to our hearts and souls and give us comfort. For as much as we applaud the advances of the medical profession and the technological prowess of mankind to create instruments and vaccines to assist in the elimination of this scourge, it is ultimately God who will provide the true solace and stability that we all long for in this very unstable period in world history.
Let us “habituate” the sounds, the distractions and the facts and figures by coming before Christ in prayer and contrition acknowledging our sins and weaknesses and opening our spiritual ears to the voice of the Good Shepherd, the only voice that can truly give us the peace of mind and soul for which we all yearn.