Monday, February 25, 2013

Discernment: Knowing the Difference between the Means and the End

Not Confusing the Means with the End--A Seventh Attitude Necessary for Discernment of God’s Will:  One’s state in life is a means to the end: glorifying and serving the Lord. Marriage, religious life, the single life are not the end of anyone’s life.  Each person’s primary goal is to give glory to the Lord and to serve Him by following His lead, allowing the Lord to direct one’s life.  Our focus is to be on the Lord and on doing His will, as it was for Jesus. Being human or taking on humanity was not the end for Jesus. It was the means to carry out the will of the Father, our salvation through His obedience to the Father, an obedience that led to death.   So, too, with one’s state in life, a state chosen because it is perceived as God’s will , a means  to accomplish the primary goal of one’s existence: glorifying God, serving God, realizing one’s oneness with God.  So that, with St. Paul, we will be able to say: “It is no longer I but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2: 19-20).

 An example of confusing the means with the end may be described as follows: “Many people first choose to make a lot of money or be successful, and only afterwards be able to serve God by it. And so, too, in their striving for power, popularity and so on.  All these people exhibit an attitude of putting God in second place and they want God to come into their lives only after accommodating their own disordered and self-centered attachment. In other words, they mix up the order of an end and a means to that end. What they ought to seek first and above all else , they often put last” (Spiritual Exercises, (169).

 Many times, this same error occurs when we are bent on speaking our minds to another person or on complaining about another behind his/her back: we tend to vent and afterward consider what God would have wanted us to do in that situation.

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