Can You Hear Me Now? What a Commercial has to teach us about listening for God

The video below takes an interesting twist on the usual cell-phone commercial which emphasizes strong signals, numerous “bars” of signal strength, and the memorable question, “Can you hear me now?”

But this commercial seeks a very different kind of “connectivity” using the cell phone, as its owner is desperate to get away, and not be heard or seen.

Suddenly the “bars” are not about connectivity, but are prison bars. The signal strength is more about the strength of the world to hold us captive. And the incessant question “Can you hear me now” comes to represent the din of a world that never stops its intrusive distractions and the need to hear another voice, the voice of God.

We moderns have many creature comforts, and a standard of living unimagined by our ancestors. And yet we also have levels of stress and a pace of life that would terrify most of them. Today, I put 110 miles on my car going about my day on numerous priestly errands. Two hundred years ago, it was quite possible that a person never journeyed more than 50 miles from their birthplace in their entire life.

Imagine the shock to a denizen of the 18th Century, magically transported to our time. There he would be with me in the car as I traveled at almost 70mph down the highway, merging in and out of traffic at speed, a speed almost unimaginable to him (70 miles in one hour? he thinks, Really? Is that possible?). And all the while:

  • A voice out of thin air, from a device they call a “radio” sounding with a fast-paced announcer,
  • And a “metal box they call a cell phone” ringing and conversations taking place with an unknown interlocutor by some magical process.
  • And there we would be, pulling into a hospital, 43 miles away, in less than an hour (how is that possible?!), in what was to him a distant city.
  • Overhead fly “airplanes” from the nearby Airport, the planes whisking overhead at 300 mph.
  • Suddenly it is back to the big city, a quick lunch with food that is heated, not by fire but in some magical box with a high-pitched hum.
  • And it’s off to another meeting across town weaving and whisking through traffic.
  • Everywhere in that city people rushing about, phones ringing, radios playing, cars tooting horns, construction noise, the sound of loud buses, and, overhead, still more planes and helicopters.
  • Despite what was to him breakneck speed, still there is me, complaining as to the slow pace of traffic and that we’re going to be late.

Soon enough our friend from the 18th century begins to shake with trauma, and cover his ears from all the loud noise and the constant interruptions. Magically transported back to the 18th Century, and shaking with trauma, he tells his friends of his visit to hell, where people rush about in metal devices at dizzying speeds and complain that they are late. And the noise! Oh the noise! And the terrifying fact that the people are required to travel over 100 miles a day before they can rest,  and they must be in multiple places and do multiple things all at once: Being forced to talk into metal devices whenever they ring, and still hold conversations with people around them, even as another voice coming out thin air (which they called a radio) speaks of bad things like murders, and no jobs and rising prices, and then it blares music. And the little metal box keeps ringing, and they keep talking into it, and rushing down roads at high speed and wondering if they’ll be late again.

Well you get the point. Can you imagine how quiet it would seem if we magically went to the 18th Century?

In the hours after 9/11 here in DC, nearby National Airport ceased operations, and most businesses closed here, and most people stayed home, glued to their TVs. Most cell phones fell silent too;  the still new technology overwhelmed by demand, simply shut down. There was an eerie silence outside. Only the strange smell of burning jet fuel from the nearby Pentagon reminded of the horrible mayhem that preceded this eerie peace. No cars, no phones, no planes over head. All in stillness.

“Can you hear me now?” Yes Lord, I can hear you now. I can hear you you in the stillness. A still, small voice, a whisper in the heart, a pause in the action, giving room for God. Yes, Lord, I can hear you now. I can hear you.

In this commercial four men seek for a place where there is “No Signal” from the world. The Ad says, “Chevy runs deep.” Yes, but God runs deeper, in that place where God says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Where is your place of no-signal? Where is your place that you can hear God say, “Can you hear me now?”

14 Replies to “Can You Hear Me Now? What a Commercial has to teach us about listening for God”

  1. I believe that after God have made many manifestations for us to give our attention on Him, yet we have taken him for granted, He will make us and our surrounding ‘Still’. That is the only way He can get our attention. I had experienced it. He hold my face and said, “Now you see me and hear me. My child this is me and hear me that i love you.” I saw Him and had listened to Him in 2007 when i had my renewal of faith.

  2. I have learned to make many “no signal” places so that I can always find one when I need it. I close my office door and shut off my phone. I turn off the CD player in my car. I stand in a hot shower. I stop in church in the early morning on my way to work. I leave the building and walk around the block–no phone in hand. I sit on my porch and listen to the little waterfall in my yard. Whenever I can, I get out in the woods, preferably on a mountain. But there are always two keys: shutting off the phone, the most insistent of disturbers of my peace, and silencing my heart. The first is easy. The second, not so much.

  3. At work, I can listen to my i-pod. I don’t listen to anything for the first hour I am there and the first hour after lunch. Those are often the most difficult hours at work, but I think it is good for me. On Saturdays, I listen to my i-pod all eight hours. I do many of the same things that other people do who read this blog to find ways listen to God.

  4. Just before I go to sleep at night. I ask if He can hear me and God usually says yes and then reminds me of some of what I said that day. Peacefully and loving but still reminds me to be loving as well.

  5. Great article. Love my woods for just that reason. (but oh the ticks are awful this spring) Congrats on becoming OSV new columnist. They couldn’t have made a better choice. God bless you always!

  6. When I awaken at 3 am and there is no going back to sleep…Yes, Lord I can hear you now! Before a new
    day dawns Scripture (Wisdom 6:13) encourages us to seek the Lord while he can be heard.
    I love the following and am sorry I cannot give the source , but it hangs on wall in my “prayer closet”:
    ” Make time for the quiet moments, as God whispers, and the world is loud”!

  7. “where people rush about in metal devices at dizzying speeds and complain that they are late.” – LOL

  8. Hello Msgr:

    Before and after Traditional Roman Mass is the quietest and holiest place for me. …Why can’t we emulate Moses and respect/fear/love the Lord so much that by removing our sandals (i.e. silencing our inane chatter) because we standing on on Holy Ground” (i.e. in the presence of Our Eucharistic Lord)?

    Ave Maria!
    Sincerely, Michael

  9. Imagine when a person in 2012 dies and loses all the amenities to communicate with the world through radio, cell phones, internet, and all the so called friends and social networks. Having never taken the time to just sit in quiet peaceful solitude and commune with God, they will feel alone, imprisoned in their fear and anxiety thinking, ” So this is what hells like. Oh God, save me!” Attachments are a very dangerous thing. Seek first ye the kingdom of heaven.

  10. Father, it is when I am in Chiana, Ghana during one of my outreach mission trips. Then only the rooster
    is waking me just before dawn around 5:30 am. Until that moment it has been soo peaceful. Then, if possible a shower and up for morning Mass at Christ the King Catholic Church with either Father Peter or Father Paul. Yes, Father they are both there together this time. Though, perhaps a little younger than the original ones you might be expecting. Life is often too hectic here in America. Therefore, sometimes it is good to get away and do somthing good for someone far away in a tiny little peaceful place in Africa.

    Thanks for all your thoughts over the years I have been reading you.

  11. Love this. I love quiet as well and think that if my life had been different I could have easily become a hermit.

    I have often used my car as a silent place with no radio and the windows up. It ain’t all that quiet but it is better than all the noise.

    I’m getting back to that.

  12. At about 3 or 4 in the morning when I become half awake for about 15-20 minutes so that when I get up I seem to slide/float gently around in the awareness of a presence of great peace until I go back to bed and to sleep. Some of these times I’m almost totally awake because a poem is in my head demanding to be written down and, when it is written down, it stops demanding and the serenity of accomplishment lullabies me back to sleep.

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