Thursday, May 30, 2013

Discernment: What Bartimaeus Teaches Us

In today’s Gospel, Mark 10: 46-52, Bartimaeus, a blind man, realizes that Jesus is passing by.  He calls out: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.”  The crowd tries to quiet him, perhaps believing that he is not worthy of Jesus’ attention.  He cries out even louder.  Jesus says to the crowd: “Call him.”  At Jesus’ command, they say to him: “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”  Jesus looks upon Bartimaeus with compassionate love and asks him: “What do you want me to do for you?”  In faith, Bartimaeus expresses his need:  “Master, I want to see.”  Jesus tells him that his faith has saved him. Bartimaeus’ sight is restored at that moment and he follows Jesus.

This story teaches us some important discernment skills:

1.       That we need to be aware of the noises around us

2.       That we need to recognize Jesus in the midst of the noise and in that or those who

crowd out Jesus’ presence in  our lives

3.       That we need to take ownership of our neediness

4.       That we need to know what it is we want of Jesus

5.       That we need faith—a faith that believes in Jesus’ willingness and ability to save us

 from our blindness  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Discernment: Scripture as a Means of Discernment

Discernment: Scripture’s Revelation

Often we ask: How do I know that I am doing the will of God?  Whom should I consult? One answer to those questions, of course, is Scripture.  The first reading of the liturgy for the 8th week of Ordinary Time, Cycle C, is an example.  Sirach (Chapter 35: 1-12) gives a picture of those persons whose will is in harmony with the will of God. They observe the precepts of God, give alms, not necessarily money, but good deeds according to their means, are just in all they do and share the gift of themselves with others cheerfully and generously. The books of Sirach, Wisdom and Proverbs are filled with passages that can help us come to an understanding of what God asks of us. So, too, does all of Scripture.

How open do I take time to search God’s will for me in His Word, a Living Word, that does not return to the Lord without fulfilling the purpose for which it was sent, as Isaiah tell us: “For, as the rain and the snow come down from the sky and do not return before having watered the earth, fertilizing it and making it germinate to provide seed for the sower and food to eat, so it is with the word that goes from my mouth: it will not return to me unfulfilled or before having carried out my good pleasure and having achieved what it was sent to do.”

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Discernment when "lost": Have you ever been lost in a place that is totally unfamiliar to you? Ever felt blindsided by something/someone and felt totally confused and asked “where do I go from here”? Ever questioned why awful things seemed to be happening to you? Ever questioned whether God cared, loved you, paid any attention to the “rocks being thrown at you,” the “walls caving in upon you,” the “windows being blown out,” the “electricity" being cut off  and the "lights" being out?

When any of that is happening, we may make choices that are helpful or those that are actually harmful to our well-being and to our moving to a place that re-energizes us, rejuvenates us, a place where again we experience our strength, reclaim our goodness, re-root ourselves in values that provide a strong foundation upon which to continue becoming the person God meant us to become: His ambassador, His friend and confidante, His disciple.

Choices that are helpful to discernment:

Calm down: find a place where you can think clearly

Calm down: find someone who will allow you to talk without putting you down, condemning you, judging you,  or giving you advice; someone who will simply give you support

Look at what is happening/what has happened and name it honestly

Identify how you feel about what has happened

Set new goals, given what has happened; set goal/goals that will rejuvenates you, energizes you

Choices that obstruct discernment:

Stirring up the “mucky waters” by asking “What is wrong with me?”

Stirring up the “mucky waters” by looking for blame, by putting others/yourself down, by condemning yourself/others, by judging yourself/others

Refusing to look at what has happened; being dishonest  with yourself/others

Repressing feelings; numbing out so as not to feel

Refusing to set new goals, to take responsibility to set new direction

Source: O’Brien, Margaret, OSU, Discovering Your Light: Common Journeys of Young Adults, Resurrection Press, Mineola, NY, 1991, pp. 16-17









Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Discernment: the role of how we use our time

Discernment and Time:  How often do you say to yourself or to you hear someone else say “I don’t have time. I’m too busy. I can’t take on another thing!”  We may begin our day rushing to get in a breakfast before running  off to work or school.  On our lunch break we may make a mad dash off to the post office or even squeeze in shopping for an overdue birthday card.  As we head home from work, we may make a quick stop at Kwik Trip to pick up some last minutes items for the evening meal.  As as quickly put together our evening dinner, we may simultaneously do our laundry.  Or, which is just as likely, we grab something to eat on the run  as we are off to an evening meeting or to drop the children off at dance school, gymnastics or practice for a little league game. 

What’s happening? Why are we living such hectic lifestyles?  Why are we so busy that we hardly have time to breathe, much less smell the flowers. What happens when suddenly we have nothing to do, an illness slows us down, or we’re taken out of commission for awhile? How do we cope?

Operating at full speed, being super busy all of the time, may make us feel important but it does not enable us to live a reflective life. As long as we engage life only on the superficial level of accomplishing this task and another and another and another, we are in danger of building our “houses” on sand with “no basement,” no depth. 

Any wonder why a person spends the majority of his/her life doing, not what he/she really wants to do but what he/she believes others want him/her to do or  to be?  Can you imagine what would happen if you did stop running and decided to “waste” time?

Any possibility that busyness is an avoidance of the important questions? Of facing yourself?  How do you react when a weekend is unplanned, when you anticipate having nothing to do? What do you do then? What if you set time aside to think, not do? To just be? To have time and space when you are not demanding that you are producing something considered worthwhile by societal standards and allowed yourself to do nothing or to do what you want to do not what others want you to do?

Maybe then discernment of what is important and is truly  meaningful to you would be possible!

Source: Compare Margaret O'Brien, OSU, Discovering Your Light: Common Journeys of Young Adults,Resurrection Press, Mineola, New York 1991, pp. 14-15.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Discernment: Voice within and voices without


 Imagine yourself shopping with a friend. You start out at each other’s side and then wander off to different parts of the store.  Time passes. You hear your name being called and automatically you respond: “Yes?” and  turn in the direction  from which your name originated.   Or imagine the phone ringing or a knock at the door of your home and you hear: “It’s for you.”  What is your reaction? How do you respond? These kinds of calls leave no confusion. You know how to respond.  It’s clear.

Go now to calls that originate from within your very being.   Inner calls are more difficult to detect.  You need to check your feelings, your intuitions, your hunches.  You need to talk to others: your peers, your friends, your parents, your siblings, your teachers, your counselors, your pastors/ministers. Figuring out what direction to take in your life is time-consuming.

Calls originating from your deepest, truest self are personal and intimate; no one else can make the decision for you: who to marry, when to marry, what career choice to make, whether or not to have children, whether to pursue a vocation to the priesthood, religious life or the diaconate or to serve God as a single person.   Some people abdicate their responsibility of decision making and do what others want them to do rather than what they want to do and know is right for them.  Being the author of your own life, knowing what you want of life and pursuing that path, not a path others map out for you, is a challenging task. It is not easy to assume this kind of responsibility.

Direction coming from your inner self originates from the Spirit who resides at the core of your beings—you will know that you are acting in accord with that Spirit when you sense a harmony between your outer and inner actions. Becoming skilled at recognizing the voice of this Spirit is hard work. It means that you need to develop, on a regular basis, daily no less,  the habit of listening to your inner self, being alone with yourself, quieting outer noises, seeking solitude.  How good are you at disciplining yourself to listen to yourself?

Source: Compare Margaret O'Brien, OSU,  Discovering Your Light: Common Journeys of Young Adults,Resurrection Press, Mineola, New York 1991,  pp. 12-13.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Discernment of God's Will: Does the Fear of Losses Hold us Back?

Today’s Gospel, Jn 16: 20-23, opens with Jesus saying to us: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”  Of course, he is talking to His disciples just prior to His return to His Father in heaven.  However, we might look at this passage in light of discernment.  Many times, I wonder whether what holds us back from  embracing God’s will, or from taking the action we know God is calling us to take, are our efforts, conscious or unconscious, to avoid what we perceive will be our losses.  Grief is painful and perhaps we are holding back for those reasons.
Of what loss/es am I afraid?  That might be the question that I need to answer if I am going to move forward in accord with God’s will whether that be embracing the vocation to which I am called or something as simple, and complex, as stopping a behavior that is not healthy for me!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Discernment: What St. Paul Teaches Us

Discernment: What St. Paul teaches us
 Throughout this week’s liturgical readings we spend time with St. Paul.  Hints of discernment skills exist in many of the accounts of his missionary work to the Gentiles. In Acts 16: 11-15, for instance, he states that he and his companion “spend some time,” in Philippi and that, on the sabbath, they “went outside the city gate along  the river where [they] thought there would be a place of prayer.”  There they entered into conversation with Lydia, with whom they shared their faith.  “The Lord open her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.
Several element of discernment surface:
·         The necessity of spending time in the “Philippi’s” of our lives to get to know the territory
·         The importance of going outside the busyness of the “Philippi’s” in order to quiet our minds
·         The need to look for a place to pray, to commune with our God in the quiet of our hearts
·         The realization that it is God who opens our hearts (a grace for which to pray)
·         The significance of paying attention to another’s beliefs following our openness about our own
·         The need to ask to be “baptized,” that is to die and rise with Christ to a new way of thinking, to new perceptions, perhaps

Friday, May 3, 2013

Discernment: Opening oneself to God

Discernment is about being open to God.  One of the things that can open us to God—to peace, joy, and love—are the hobbies which we enjoy. One of my former hobbies was painting outdoor scenes, using watercolor. I loved it. It felt so satisfying and uplifting to create something beautiful in my eyes and in the eyes of others.  In reflecting on that experience and longing to return to making time in my busy schedule to re-engage in  doing watercolor or learning to paint with oils, the thought occurred to me that, by taking time to engage in “fun” activities, the sense of doing things out of obligation is tempered into doing things out of love. God wants us to give ourselves to Him out of love, not out of obligation. He wants us to choose Him freely. A hobby, taking time for leisure and for re-creation, allows me the time to step back and do what I love to do: be creative.  Writing does the same thing for me. Being creative gives me energy to engage in life more fully, more freely, to relate to people more lovingly and respectfully.  And that is God’s will for me.  So, creativity and enjoying a hobby is a way to become “clay in the Potter’s hands.”

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Discernment: Transparency with others

Discernment:  Transparency with Others
The first reading of today’s liturgy, Acts 15: 7-21, teaches us the importance of being transparent in our discernment of God’s will in our daily lives.  Paul and  Barnabas are confronted by other Jews concerning the issue of circumcision, believing that any Gentile becoming a believer, a Christian, must be required to be circumcised.  Yet, God had already baptized them with the Holy Spirit and brought their faith to fruition in proclaiming the Good News and working signs and wonders  among the people.  To settle the dispute and gain clarity as to what God’s will might be in this instance, Paul and Barnabas go to Jerusalem to meet with the Apostles and the presbyters. They explain their dilemma, the dispute and confusion, the insistence of other Jews that the Gentiles be circumcised and the fact that the new believers have been baptized by God Himself and that they are performing wonders and signs of the power of the resurrection.  Why, they ask, should we place the burden of circumcision upon them and other Mosaic laws? 
In our discernment, we, too, need to be transparent with persons both in authority and  with those who share our everyday concerns. Clarity comes from transparency, from being honest and open with appropriate others.