Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Discernment: An Atmosphere that Can Lead to Openness

Discernment:  In Gen. 3: 8-12, we read about Adam and Eve hearing the “sound of Yahweh walking in the garden in the cool of the day…”  Taking time to walk in nature without ipods or cellphones, or any other technological device plugged into one’s ears is a good way of positioning ourselves to meeting God, of hearing “the sound of Yahweh walking in the garden in the cool of the day” with us.  We are alerted to several conditions that can open us up to hearing and recognizing  God’s voice: quietness, being out in nature, being away from the busyness of the day, being with another human being whom we love.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Discernment: Speak, Lord, your servant is listening

A classic story of discernment is that of Samuel.  We are told in 1 Sam 3:4 that Samuel is asleep and hears someone calling his name.; He thinks it is Eli. After the third time of being awakened by Samuel , Eli realizes that the One who is calling Samuel's name is the Lord Himself.  So he tells Samuel to go back to sleep and if He hears someone calling his name again t5o say: "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening."

We learn several things about discernment from that Scripture passage:
  • Recognizing who is calling may take an intervention, someone older and more experienced in listening to God than I am
  • God may call at night or when I am surrounded by darkness, darkness within and without
  • God may call several times before even the wiser person realizes that God is trying to get my attention
  • That it is important to ask the Lord to speak and that now I am listening.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Discernment: The role of worship and fasting

Discernment:  The first reading of today’s liturgy, Acts 12: 24-13: 5a, gives us a direction for discerning God’s will.  Barnabas, Symeon, Lucius of Cyrene, Manean and Saul were worshiping the Lord and fasting.

During their worship and ascetic practice of fasting, the Holy Spirit spoke to them, directing them in what God wanted them to do.  If I am going to discern God’s will for me, I, too, need to spend time worshipping the Lord. I, too, need to take time to fast: fasting  from over consumption of food, from eating more than I really need, fasting from busyness that keeps me from setting time aside for the Lord, fasting from gossip and other sinful ways that dull my senses, that block my vision, that harden my heart.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Discernment: Role of Scripture, of others, of openness and humility

Discernment: The first reading of today’s liturgy, Acts 8: 26-40, teaches us a lot about discernment. Out of the blue, Philip hears the following message: “Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.”  He does so, just like that.  Some times that is how we need to respond to God’s messages. Those messages could come out of the blue  and be heard only within the depths of our beings, as in the case of Philip. They also could come from acquaintances, friends, spouses, pastors, ministers, teachers, counselors, physicians, lawyers, fellow workers, and so on. The source is not the issue. The message is as we hear it coming from God through a human instrument, as did the eunuch in this same Scripture passage. He listens to Philip explain the Scriptures to him and how all is about Jesus, our Savior and King, the One sent from God to save the world from Satan’s power. The eunuch is also open to the Spirit speaking through the circumstances and, as they pass a some water, says to Philip: “What is to prevent my being baptized?”  Seizing the moment, the eunuch becomes a member of the Body of Christ.

 Both Philip and the eunuch are open to the Spirit speaking in the present moment, speaking in the depth of their hearts, directing them toward action and to do that which will be a life-changing event for themselves or another.  Philip leaves his comfort zones—an important part of following the Spirit. As a result, Philip makes a difference in the eunuch’s life. The eunuch is humble enough to allow Philip to open the Scriptures for him.  His life is transformed because of his humility and openness to instruction—elements essential in discerning God’s will.

Another part of discernment is taking time to read/reflect upon the Scriptures. That openness on the part of the eunuch led him to fulfilling God’s will for him.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Discernment:Is What I Am Considering of Divine or Human Origin

Discernment: In Acts 5:34-42, we read about the apostles being arrested by the Pharisees.  Gamaliel, "a teacher of the law, respected by all the people," reminded his fellow Pharisees that if the activity of the apostles was of human origin, it would not prevail over time.  On the other hand, if it originated from God, "you will not be able to destroy them; but you may even find yourselves fighting against God."

This advice may serve us well in discerning God's will in our daily lives and in discerning a vocation in life, be it marriage, the single life, religious life, priesthood or the diaconate.  If the intuition concerning a state in life or any other decision is of God, it will persist. A person will not be able to do away with it. God's will will prevail.  If, on the other hand, what one is considering is of human origin, it will disappear. It will not happen.  That does not mean that a person does not have to discern.  Pros and cons still need to be examined. Choices still need to be made. A person still needs to discover the origin of one's desires--are they coming from the Holy Spirit or from a spirit contrary to God's will, to the truth within the depth of one's being,  See previous blogs for ways to discern good or bad spirits, or, in the language of Acts 5: 34-2, their source:  human origins or divine origin.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Discernment and Everyday Experiences

Discernment:  God gives me daily lessons in learning the skills of discernment in my everyday experiences, as God exists in all of them.  My confusion is an invitation to step aside, seek counsel or engage in further research to ascertain more nformation.  How well do I do that?  Hidden in my weaknesses are my strengths (the flip side of the same coin, so to speak). What strength is being called forth by a particular weakness?  Foolishness invites me to discover God's Wisdom at the core of my being.  Do I step back and ask God to teach me what I need to learn from my follies?  Vulnerabilities are also God's way of communicating His will for me.  Do I even recognize to what, where, when and with whom I am vulnerable to engage in behaviors or make choices that are not in my best interests, that do not foster growth in the desires of my true self and are not in accord with Gospel values?  

If I step back and reflect on ordinary experiences--confusion or doubt, weaknesses and vulnerabilities,  foolishness or follies--I will grow in discerning whether good spirits or bad spirits are influencing my choices.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Discernment and Gospel Values

In discerning God's will for me, whether that be discerning my vocation in life or what God is asking of me in my decisions of my daily life, what Gospel values are motivating me to choose one state in life instead of another or to choose one way of acting instead of another?  Am I motivated by love? by justice? by truth? by faithfulness? by forgiveness or reconciliation? Or another value I find lived out by Jesus? Also guiding my decisions needs to be the life of Jesus Himself, His modeling service to the poor, the outcast, the forgotten persons of His society; His healing ministry, His obedience to the Father's will, His mission to bring fullness of life to all persons; His life, death and resurrection.

What decision would I make considering it in light of Gospel values and in light of Jesus' life?