Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Discernment: A Way to Recognize God at Work in our Lives

In  today’s Gospel, Luke 1: 39-56, we encounter two women very much attuned to what is happening within their bodies and within the core of their beings.  Both are very familiar with God at work in the stillness of their lives.  Elizabeth, following the conception of John the Baptist, withdraws  for five months, saying, “The Lord has done this for me, now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered in public” (barrenness was considered an humiliation and, also, a punishment for women in Elizabeth’s time and culture).  Like her cousin Elizabeth,  Mary has withdrawn into the silence of her heart awed by the angel’s announcement and that she is to become the Mother of God. “’You see before you the Lord’s servant,” she says to the angel, “let it happen to me as you have said.’ And the angel left her” alone in her solitude. She leaves Galilee immediately after the Annunciation to go to Judah to visit Elizabeth, telling no one, according to the Gospel, of what occurred in Galilee.  In silence, she ponders what the Lord has done to her.

We learn from Mary and Elizabeth the importance of solitude, of pondering and reflecting on what is happening in our lives as a means to recognize the ways of God.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Discernment of the Quality of my Discipleship

Discernment of the Caliber of My Discipleship:  In today’s first reading, 1 Peter 4: 7-13, St. Peter reminds us that “the end of all things is at hand.  Therefore be serious and sober-minded.”   In other words, pay attention to that which is important and vital to your well- being spiritually and to the well-being of others—do not occupy yourself with that which is trivial or of minor significance.  Live thoughtfully! Live a life full of meaning.  Peter then looks at what that kind of life would entail. He says:  “…[L]et your love for one another be intense…Be hospitable to one another without complaining.  …[S]erve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”  Do all of this “with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

How do I know whether I am living these Scripture challenges?   We know by using Jesus as our model. Jesus loved intensely and served others to the point of giving His life for our well-being!  At one point Jesus’ mother and brothers and sisters (cousins) were very concerned about Jesus because He was so busy meeting other people’s needs and being about the ministry His Father entrusted to Him that He seemed to ignore His own basic  needs.

 To what point am I willing to sacrifice for the well-being of a member of my family, one’s wife/husband/children? How willing am I to sacrifice for a member of my religious community or of my parish; for a co-worker, a terminally ill patient, a chronically ill person, a mentally ill individual, an alcoholic/drug addict or whomever God puts on my path today?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Discernment: Role of Self-Knowledge

Discernment:  Knowing our Need and Recognizing Jesus in our midst

In today’s Gospel, Mark 10: 46-52,  Bartimaeus, a blind man, is sitting by the roadside begging—probably something he did every day to provide for his basic human needs.  He hears that Jesus is passing  by his way. He seizes the moment and calls out: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”  He’s rebuked and told to keep quiet and not to bother this holy passerby.  Bartimaeus pays no heed and continues begging Jesus to have pity on him. Jesus does so and calls Bartimaeus over to himself and asks: “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus responds: “Master, I want to see.”

Discernment begins with self-knowledge. We need to know both our weaknesses and our strengths, what we need or what needs have already been fulfilled,  what we see or do not yet see, what we hear or what we are not hearing. Without knowing who we truly are, we will not recognize that we need Jesus or even that Jesus is passing  by and ready to be of help.  We may be so busy doing what we always do that we simply do not call upon Jesus for help, as Bartimaeus did.  This may be true in ordinary events of every day or in bigger events, such as discerning our vocation in life, our career choices, or other major decisions. We may not even recognize that, without Jesus, we are spiritually blind, spiritually deaf and in need of help to hear the Spirit’s call! 

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life—go to Him in all things, in all decisions, in all dilemmas if you are desirous of discerning what is right for you!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Discerning One's Discipleship

Discernment of one’s Discipleship:  In today’s Gospel,  Mark 10: 32-45, Jesus, accompanied by the apostles and other disciples,  is on His way up to Jerusalem.  Jesus knows what awaits Him there. “Behold,” he says, “we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed  over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.”

Walking with Jesus, James and John approach Him wanting favors in His Kingdom.  And the other ten apostles are indignant with them. Jesus rebukes all of them and reminds them that they are off track:   “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” I came, He says, “not to be served but to serve and to give [my] life as a ransom for many.”

You can discern the kind of disciple you are by looking at your motivations and your attitudes towards others who are on the same faith journey as yourself.  Are you vying for first place or seeking places of honor, as were James and John? Or are you one of the ten apostles who are indignant with James and John—they want those positions!  Or, are you at peace, as was Jesus, serving others and giving your life for the sake of others, being, not first, but last of all, as Jesus was in the minds of the leaders of His people!

What kind of disciple are you? What might Jesus say to you “on your way to Jerusalem” with Him?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Choices and Jesus' Promise

Vocational Choice:  “…[N]o one [in any walk of life],” Jesus says, “who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel ….will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and brothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”

The pain involved in leaving that which is dear to us or which is difficult to set aside as we follow the Spirit’s lead or when we choose the vocation in life to which God is inviting us—marriage, religious life, priesthood, the single lifestyle—is richly compensated for by our loving God.  Jesus says that we will receive “hundred times more now in this present age…and eternal life in the age to come.”  There is never a time when we sacrifice for God in choosing that vocation to which we feel called or when we sacrifice for another in living life fully according to the Gospel and what Christian charity requires of us  that the “pay” is  not “a hundred times more” than we ever imagined.

What, today, am I willing to do to follow the Spirit’s lead be that in choosing a vocation in life or in making less weighty decisions to live life fully?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Discernment: A Mutual Understanding and Affirmation

In today’s first reading, James 4: 13-17, St. James addresses those of us who say, “‘Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit’—you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead you should say, ‘If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.’”  Wow!  St. James might as well have asked us “Who do you think you are? You have no idea whether you will be here tomorrow. And where is God in this plan of yours?”

As we reflect upon James’  message, we may be reminded that God is in charge, not us.  I just returned from doing some work with young women believing that they are called to consecrate their lives to the Lord.  It was as though one of them was shouting: “THIS IS GOD’S WILL FOR ME. I SHALL ENTER YOUR COMMUNITY.”  There was no acknowledgement that she would pursue a  vocation to religious life, “IF THE LORD WILLS IT.”

As in marriage, a man and woman must both agree that they are meant to commit their lives to one another forever. If one of the parties says “I don’t believe that we are meant to be together forever, there is no marriage between the two of them. God revealed His will—the two were not meant to marry one another--in the fact that the attraction to marry one another was not mutual. The search for God's will needs, then, to continue. The same is true in regard to a religious vocation: both the community and the individual need to believe that “Yes, this is right!” In that mutual agreement, God reveals His will. This does not mean that the person is not called to consecrate her life to the Lord, but that she has not yet found the community that is right for her. It could also mean, as she continues  to seek religious life, that no community agrees with her that religious life is her calling. God, in that case, is redirecting her to consider other options. The door will open when she has found that calling to which God is inviting her.  And someone will confirm that calling. And she learns to say: “If the Lord wills it, [I] shall live to do this or that” (James 4: 15).

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Discernment: What Passion is Driving Me?

Discernment:  In today’s Scripture readings, James 4: 1-10,  St. James asks us the questions:  “Where do the wars and where to the conflicts among you come from? Is it not your passions that make war within your members?”  In the Gospel, Mark 9: 30-37,the apostles are arguing about who will be first in the Kingdom.

In discerning God’s will for us in weighty or seemingly insubstantial issues it is important to examine our passions. What is driving us toward something we believe God is asking of us?  Is it actually the Spirit calling us or is it our desire  for prestige, for one-up-man-ship, for honors, for revenge or in order “to show them "I can do this" or that "I am better than others" or some other narcissistic motive? Are we having difficulty discerning the Spirit’s lead because we are  caught up worldly matters and have taken  our focus off of Jesus, have forgotten to “throw our cares on the Lord” (Psalm 55) or to “draw near to God.”  St. James asks: “Do you not know that to be a lover of the world [and of secular goals] means enmity with God?”   When I am interiorly disturbed or not a peace, when my sole focus is success as proposed by the world, it is that turmoil that I can easily project onto others. It is that “muddy” thinking that blocks me from seeing as God sees and that depletes my trusting the Lord and openness to the Spirit's lead.  In those times I am seeking my will above God’s. 

The argument that broke out among the apostles occurred right after Jesus told them that “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” Jesus is about doing His Father’s will.  Nothing else!  He was not enmeshed in worldly, secular goals and neither should we be focused on such. Whatever we are doing here on earth—personally, vocationally, professionally, socially, as a parent, an employee, an employer, a friend, a relative—should be in response to God’s call or the Spirit’s lead in our life.  We are on a journey of dying and rising with Christ, in getting to know and imitate the Lord. Nothing else! Or is there?