Default – Arnel Aquino, SJ

John 14:23-29, Sixth Sunday of Easter

I once had lunch with a dear friend sometime ago. As we got settled in our seats, I asked her straightaway, “O, how’s name-of-husband doing?” See, a few weeks before that, I received a text from her that said, “Arnel, please pray naman for name-of-husband. He’s becoming really cranky. Must be andropause (male menopause).” These are 2 very good friends of mine, married for more than 30 years, & they’ve weathered through the worst times. They’re also very much into church, so I really wasn’t worried. “You know what, Arnel, I think God is really a genius,” she continued. “God made people such that women go through menopause first.” I guess she was saying that, #1, it would’ve been explosive if spouses went through menopause at the same time, & #2, since the wife goes through it first, she has more patience with the husband once he got there because according to her, men didn’t handle this transition as well as women did. True? “It’s unbelievable, Arnel. He’s begun exercising like crazy. And just as he hardly touched any alcohol before, now he has a little whiskey every night. He hated going out. But now he’s always with his high school barkada doing God knows what!”

Then she said the most interesting thing. “And I’m no longer his default voice.” Default voice? “You know, Arnel, married couples have a default voice in their heads; that’s the voice of their spouse. And I think it’s brought about by years of living together. It’s amazing. Even when we’re in a crowd, like in a noisy party, when name-of-husband either mentions or calls my name, I snap my head towards where the voice is coming from, I hear right away…. But now, I’m no longer his default voice.” Her husband doesn’t seem to hear her as readily as he did before. “Mind you, he has perfect hearing, Arnel ha. But I’ve had to repeat myself because he’d go, ‘Really, you said that? When?’ & I’ve had to say, ‘Hello! Yeah! Just a few moments ago.”

“Those who love me will keep my word, & my Father will love them, & we will come to him & make our dwelling with them.” I’ve always loved those words in John. I’ve found comfort in envisioning the Father & the Son “making a home” in people who love them. But what follows that has always befuddled me. “The Advocate,” Jesus says, “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything & remind you of all that I told you.” I guess, when Father & Son make their dwelling in us, they’d somehow also “speak” from within us. So, in light of my friend’s story, I was thinking—this “making a dwelling” in us, this “Advocate” who will “teach” and “remind” us of all the Lord has said, maybe we can understand this as the “default voice”. Maybe I can ask you: “Whose voice in your head is ultimately the default voice? Is it the Lord’s? And what does he sound like? Does the Lord speak through someone else’s voice? Someone dear? Or someone you fear? Does he use your own voice to ‘teach’ you & ‘remind’ you of all he’s told you?” So, just like loving couples hear each other’s voices above any other, or like best friends hear what the other thinks & feels before they even say anything, having the Lord’s voice as our default voice could mean this: that we’re so tuned in to him that his voice rises above anybody else’s, deep in our consciousness. That no matter how messy our brains—let alone our lives, no matter how noisy our hearts—let alone our spirits, no matter how myriad choices outshout each other for our attention—hearing Jesus’ voice as our default could be taken to mean that he & we are so tight, it’s what he eventually says that will matter most, he who will have the final say, & he who will have the last word.

We’re hearing many voices these days, aren’t we? Way too many if you ask me. They’re all vying not just for our attention but for our decision. I’ve often asked myself, which among these voices sounds most like the Lord’s? But it’s become more & more tricky to discern that through the broken record of self-glorification, self-congratulation, self-triumphalizing. And that’s only on “side A.” On “side B” of the broken record play the hatred, the mutual invalidation, the finger-pointing. (Incidentally, parents, kayo na lang bahala to explain to your kids: “broken record,” “side A,” & “side B” ha?!) We are desperate for our Father & his Son to truly make their dwelling among us now more than ever. (Maybe they’re on their way? Na-trapik lang?) We could really use the Spirit’s voice in our ears, to remind us, to teach us—if the Spirit’s voice isn’t our default already.

Has it rained these the past three days at your place? It has back in Katipunan—& in many other places, I hear. It’s incredible, isn’t it? I’ve always believed our Pinoy power of Oratio Imperata. Now, have you ever wondered whose default voice is in God’s big ears? He who hears our prayers, our clamor to be saved all these years, our cries for help even before we open our mouths to actually cry out to him—ever wondered whose default voice is in God’s big ears? Hindi pa rin tayo pinababayaan ng Diyos, despite our wrong choices both as individuals & as a people. So, whose default voice does God hear, you think? Whom has he allowed to come to Him & make their dwelling in Him?

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