The voice of God is at odds with the world’s voice in many ways.

Jesus illustrates one of them in several images: fasting, praying, performing acts of charity. When he advises secrecy in such activities, it’s not to encourage modesty or humility. It’s to encourage us to attend to the voice of God.

That singular voice – which is the figure for God’s presence, in its perfect attentiveness and unqualified concern – is the true nourishment our spirit requires for vitality in the Kingdom, but we cannot receive it while seeking sustenance elsewhere.

When Jesus advises anonymity from the world, he’s speaking as a physician, not as a moralist.

Once we become attentive to it, the same voice can be heard in the privacy of suffering (and all suffering is essentially private.) Its comforting tone there – or rather, our familiarity with it there – will serve us in good stead as we enter the final journey, where the voices of the world are withdrawn, the spotlight fades, and the audience stands and exits the theater of our lives.

God’s abiding presence to each of us is an eternal given, but it’s never simply administered: it must be appropriated. It’s like a telephone ringing softly, softly. Or like the astounding beauty waiting in every leaf and blade of glass. Or like the music of the spheres that we cannot hear, because we are always hearing it, from the moment we are born until the moment we die.

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