Friday, August 30, 2013

Discernment: What is God's will for Me?

In 1 Thes 4: 1, St. Paul says to us:  "This is the will of God, your holiness." So, if you and I are growing in holiness, we are then in sync with God's will.  But what is holiness?  Where do we look for it? Where do we find it?  Holiness is not like an object on the store shelf that we can simply buy and put on like a new suit, a costly perfume, a sparkling diamond.  No, it is within us, in our God-self, in our innermost self, that calls us us to be transparent and honest with others, that gently invites us to make choices that protect our integrity, that is, our identity as God's beloved daughters/sons, as persons who are loving, caring, forgiving, as persons filled with gratitude and awe, wisdom and prudence, joy and peace--gifts that flow freely from God's Spirit, gifts that dwell within us since our baptism.  We know that we are in sync with God's will when we refrain from immoral acts, do not give expression to evil, malicious, deceitful and impure thoughts but let them pass as clouds pass by.  We know that we are in sync with God's will when we are striving to please God above all, seeking His forgiveness from those we offend and saying "I'm sorry" when we have acted contrary to the way of love that Jesus teaches us in the Scriptures.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Discernment: "Teacher, what good must I do..." (Mt. 19:16)

In today’s Gospel, Mt 19: 16-22, the rich young man, who faithfully obeyed all of the commandments, approaches Jesus, wanting to know what more he has to do to gain eternal life. He is engaged in a form of discernment. The first part of discernment is knowing that something is missing. He doesn’t know how to get rid of that nagging feeling that leaves him with a sense of emptiness, of not doing enough. So he goes to Jesus and says: “Teacher, what good must I do...?” Jesus responds with His own question: “Why do you ask me about the good?” There is only One who is good….” What a statement to a rich young man who perceives himself as a very good man, as one who has kept all of the commandments, has made a good life for himself, has rightfully gained a lot of wealth. He is doing well, very well. He can be truly proud of himself so why this restlessness and why does Jesus say “only One…is good”? The rich young man is in a very good place spiritually in that he recognizes that something is missing and has made the right move by approaching the Lord. He’s gone to the right person. Jesus recognizes that there is something here that is laudable and upon which another kind of wealth can be realized, that of selling everything, detaching oneself from what is one’s own, and following Jesus unreservedly. No matter to which vocation in life God calls you—religious life, priesthood, marriage, the single life—you, too are called to follow Jesus unreservedly. To what might you be attached that blocks that giving of your all to the Lord and following His way as a religious, a married person, a single person, a priest?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Discernment: How God Directed the Israelites

In Exodus 40: 16-21, 34-38, we are given information of how the Israelites knew God’s will for them. A “cloud covered the meeting tent and the glory of the Lord filled the Dwelling….Whenever the cloud rose from the Dwelling, the children of Israel would set out on their journey. But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward; only when it lifted did they go forward.” A cloud was seen during the day and “fire was seen in the cloud at night…by the whole house of Israel in all stages of their journey.” This was the presence of God in their midst. God also gave them the Ten Commandments and wrote the Law in their memories: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts” (Jer. 31:33).

The Israelites did not go forward unless the cloud lifted. Imagine you and I heeding the clouds in our lives as a message from God not to make major decisions at that time, not to go forward when our minds are foggy, when we feel confused, when we really don’t know what to do or what to think. That is the time to recall Isaiah’s advice: “By waiting and by calm, you shall be saved; in quiet and in trust your strength lies” (Is. 30: 15). Also, then, imagine us following the directives of the Lord when “the cloud is lifted,” knowing that it is time to move forward , to implement a decision about which we are clear.

Like the Israelites, God dwells in our midst, in fact, God dwells in the very core of our beings. We are Temples of the Holy Spirit. God’s law is also written on our hearts and inscribed in our minds. The Holy Spirit lives within us “to infuse our knowledge with divine grace and guide us with divine creativity and wisdom” so that we, too, are able to stay on the right track on our journey to the Promised Land of Eternal Life with God (See The Word Among Us, July/August 2013, p. 51).