Thursday, March 16, 2017

Discernment of One's Moral Strength

Discerning one’s moral strength:  In today’s Gospel, Luke 16: 19-31, the evangelist presents the story of Dives and Lazarus. Dives,  a rich man,  ignores the needs of Lazarus, a poor, very ill man who sat outside the gates leading to the rich man’s property.  Dives  is deaf to the cries of the poor and blind to their needs, using all of his wealth for himself alone.  On the subject of morality, he would score an “F” on his report card.  The consequences of his choice to live for himself alone, not sharing his wealth but ignoring the needs of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized and the vulnerable of his society:  eternal  torment outside of the presence of God for all eternity (See today’s Gospel, Luke 16: 19-31)!

The author of the March 16th reflections on this Scripture passage, as given in the March 1, 2017 issue of WORD AMONG US,  states clearing how we can discern the moral strength of a society or of ourselves as well.  The author states:  “There is no getting around it. God wants us to work together to improve the situation of society’s weakest members.  In the end, the moral strength of any community  will be measured by how we have  treated our most vulnerable citizens, not by how we ourselves have fared.”

In what ways am I, are you, working to improve the situation of the weakest, most vulnerable members of our society, of our families, of our religious communities, of our parishes?  We can discern how moral we are by the way we respond to those in need.

Given our responsibilities to “work together to improve the situation of society’s weakest members”,  I believe, that the government of the U.S.—the President, His Cabinet, and members of Congress--earns an “F” in terms of morality. How much longer, I ask, will I, will you, or will the citizens of the U.S. support the choices of a President, of our Senators and members of the House of Representatives who are  making choices that deny the poor and vulnerable among us what they need to provide their
families with adequate food, shelter, clothing, health care, and an education that prepares them to
provide for their future families?

 How willing am I to take my moral responsibility seriously by standing up for what is right? Am I willing  to challenge  unjust legislation that exploits the poor and ignores the most vulnerable members of our country? For what reason, I ask,  might our elected leaders be doing this? Is it not possible that they truly want to increase the wealth of the richest among us and also line their own pockets, no matter what the cost to the poor and marginalized of our country, thus bringing to reality the  President’s desire to increase billionaires in our country, as he stated during his campaign for presidency?

Final question:  How would you and I score our moral strength? Would we  give ourselves an “A,” a “B,” a “C,” a “D,” or an “F”?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Discernment: How do you know that you are called to religious life?

Discernment:  How do you know that you are called to religious life?  You might get some answers to that question by asking a couple of other question: How do you know what career to pursue in college? How do you know to date such and such a person or terminate the dating relationship, not pursuing marriage?

The answers are: 1) you sense the direction to take career-wise by listening to an inner voice.  You choose according to your preferences, your likes, your dreams, your talents. You choose according to what energizes you.  2) You hear yourself say “Yes! That’s it!”  3) Then, you take steps to move in that direction.  4) If the choices you make confirm your decision, you continue pursuing your dreams and making them a reality or you change careers.

Religious life: 1) an inner voice directs you to look into religious life as a vocational option, 2) your research confirms your decision, 3) when you find the right community, you and the community says: “Yes, this is it. Let’s proceed with the application process”, 4) through the process, you and the community come to the decision to accept you into the postulancy: the first stage of training to become a member of that religious community ,5) during postulancy, you and the community continue to believe that you are called to religious life within this particular community—or you and the community come to realize that a) you are not called to religious life or b) you are called to religious life but in a different community (for instance, a Dominican community instead of a Franciscan one).

Monday, January 9, 2017

Discernment of your mission and purpose in life

Discernment of your mission and purpose in life:  Today we celebrate the baptism of our Lord. The first reading of today’s liturgy, Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-7,  presents the prophesy concerning Jesus’ mission. God says to us through the prophet Isaiah that Jesus is God’s “servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, …A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching….”  Jesus, Isaiah tells us,  is “a covenant of the people, a light for the nations.” He is “to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”

As you reflect upon Jesus’ mission, you will discover that your mission, through baptism, is the same, as is the way your creator feels toward you. As with Jesus, God says to you:  You are my “servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am please, upon whom I have put my spirit.”  To properly know your mission—the reason you are sent to earth and within which vocation you are to live out God’s purpose—you need to see yourself as “God’s servant,” as one in whom God is well pleased and upon whom God as put His spirit. Without that perspective, you are likely to lack the confidence to follow God’s direction for your life.  The task God may be calling you to accomplish and the vocation in which He wants you to do this,  may seem too difficult from a perspective that exclude’s God delight in you, God being pleased with you. 

Every day, bask in God’s delight of you, his pleasure in creating you and giving you an unique mission. Hear God say to you every day: You are be beloved daughter/son. In you I am well pleased. Hear God say to you as you consider the work you are about to undertake or the decision you are about to make: “Son/daughter, I am proud of you.”

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Discernment: Come and See

Discernment:  In today’s Gospel, Jesus goes to Galilee and there finds Philip. Jesus says to Philip: “Follow me.”   Philip, in turn, finds Nathaniel and says to him: “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth. Nathaniel asks Philip: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip does not argue but says: “Come and see.”  Jesus sees Nathaniel coming “toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There I no duplicity in him.”  “How do you know me,” Nathaniel asks.  “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel,” Nathaniel responds.  “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this…Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man.”

Just as Jesus found Philip, so, too, does He find you.  He says to you, as He said to Philip: “Follow me.”  What do you need to leave behind to be truly following the Lord? And once you have begun in earnest to live by faith and grow in your relationship with the Lord, whom, to you invite to do the same?   Do you, like Nathaniel,  when invited to meet Jesus, ”son of Joseph, from Nazareth,” ask:  “What good can come out of Nazareth?”    Furthermore, if invited to become a woman religious, a man religious, a priest, a deacon, do you  ask:  “What good is there in entering religious life, in studying to become a priest, a deacon?”  Come and see! Take that next step and pay attention to that small, persistent inner voice inviting you to consecrate your life solely to the Lord.

Perhaps you do not realize that you “will see greater things...” if you trust the Lord totally in His call to you, in His invitation to follow Him unreservedly as a woman/man religious, as a priest, as a deacon.  Remember that could be the same if God is calling you to sacramental marriage or to the single lifestyle.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Discernment and Personal Identity

Discernment:  In today’s Gospel, John 1: 19-28, Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to John to find out who he was and why he was baptizing; in other words, to give an account of himself.  When asked “Who are you,” John the Baptist replied: ‘I am not the Christ.’ So they asked him, ‘What are you then? Are you Elijah?’ And he said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?’ He said: ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.’”

In order to develop the skill of discerning God’s will, it is essential to be able to answer the questions about yourself that were posed to John the Baptist: Who are you? If not such and such, or so and so,  then what or who? What do you have to say for yourself?

If I answer those questions by saying: I am  Mary, I’m Elizabeth, I’m Mary Magdalen, I’m  Peter, I’m Paul; or I’m Joe Biden, I’m Mitch McConnell, I’m  Brett Favre, I’m Aaron Rogers, I’m Marilyn Monroe, I’m Carrie Fisher, I’m Warren Buffet, that defines someone who is not me. God’s will for anyone of these individuals is not God’s will for me.  I am not anyone else but my unique self. The purpose for which God created me is also unique, containing a mission given to no one else.

So who am I? Who am I not?  What am I and what am I not?  Who are you and who are you not? What are you and what are you not?

 St. John the Baptist found the answer to his identity in the book of Isaiah? In which book of the Bible will you find, or have you found, the answer to who you are?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Finding the Right Path in 2017

Discernment:  St. John says to us in 1 John 2: 20-21: …[Y]ou have the anointing that comes from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you not because you do not know the truth but because you do, and because every lie is alien to the truth.”

How frequently do we not pretend not to know the truth!  Yet, we do. The truth is hidden within the very core of our beings.  To access it, we need to become very still, as there are layers of voices that tempt to drown out the truth, to block our hearing the truth and our eyes from seeing the truth, as well!  It is so easy to “jump in other people’s boat” and simply go where they are going—no questions asked—or to mouth what they are mouthing without thinking our own thoughts or knowing what our own thoughts are.

To get out of “a boat” that is not ours or to stop mouthing other people’s “truths” and neglecting our own, we need solitude time, alone time, quiet time. We need to come apart with the Lord and ask to be enlightened. We need to ask for God’s wisdom to flood our souls! Without God, we are very likely to be deceived. And Satan, the Father of Lies, is very skilled and very intelligent—after all, he is a fallen angel--at leading us down a path upon which God does not want us to travel, as it will not bring us to the personal truth that will set us free!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Discernment: Learning to Listen to "the Angels" God sends as Guiding Messengers

Discernment:  Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Shortly after Jesus’ birth and after the Magi left to return to their perspective countries, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and warned him to make an immediate departure in the middle of the night for the land of Egypt. Herod would be searching for the child Jesus to kill him.  When in Egypt and those who wanted to kill Him had in fact themselves died, an angel again appeared to Joseph instructing him to return to Nazareth.  A third time, again in a dream, Joseph is counseled by an angel concerning the  place in Judea  to settle that would be best for the Holy Family.

Joseph is alert to heavenly messages. He listens to the good spirits guiding him as foster father of Jesus.  All along, Joseph is fulfilling the prophesies concerning Jesus, God's plan for his life as our Messiah.

As with the Holy Family, God has a plan for your life as well. If you follow the promptings of “the angels,” the messengers of the Lord speaking to you, guiding you to making right choices, you, too, will be growing in the skill of discernment.  As with Joseph, so, too, with you: you are being guided day and night with warnings and instructions. Do you heed God’s guiding  voice? Do you see God’s guiding hand? Do you trust your "dreams”? Joseph did!  You can, too!

May you develop the kind of intimacy with God that Joseph had developed  and that enabled him to hear God's voice, trust God's messengers that He sends to you in your dreams.