Monday, August 22, 2016

Discerning God at Work within our Lives

Today’s discernment is based on Hosea: 2: 21-22, where Yahweh says to us through the prophet Hosea:  “ I shall betroth you to myself for ever, I shall betroth you in uprightness and justice, and faithful love and tenderness.  Yes, I shall betroth you to myself in loyalty and in the knowledge of Yahweh.”

In a commentary on this verse, the author tells us that the word “betroth” is used in the Bible “only in reference to ‘a young  virgin.’  Thus God abolishes Israel’s adulterous past. His new marriage is, as it were, with a new creature whose dispositions are as constant as his own…” (Footnote “t” of Hosea 2: 21) in the Jerusalem Bible).

God is at work in us and will continue that work until our “dispositions are as constant as his own.” And he accomplishes this work “in uprightness and justice, and faithful love and tenderness.” Yes, Yahweh betroths us to Himself “in loyalty and in knowledge” of Himself.”

Part of discernment is to recognize God at work within us, moving us toward the constancy that God models for us.  Discern the tenderness of God, God’s justice and uprightness at work in us each day.  Note that God is loyal. God will never abandon us.  Our past is no more, in God’s eyes. He says to us,  in Isaiah 43: 19, “See I am making something new.”

Friday, August 19, 2016

Discernment: Pay Attention, Listen, and Come to the Lord

Discernment: God says to us in Isaiah 55: 3-5:  “Pay attention, come to me; listen, and you will live. I shall make an everlasting covenant with you in fulfillment of favors promised to David.  Look I have made him a witness to peoples, a leader and lawgiver to peoples. Look, you will summon a nation unknown to you, a nation unknown to you will hurry to you for the sake of Yahweh your God, because the Holy One of Israel has glorified you.”

Obviously, three essential principles of discernment are: 1) Paying attention,  2) Coming to the Lord and 3) Listening!  If you are going to pay attention to the Lord in terms of which vocation God is calling you to embrace or which decision to make concerning how to thrive in your vocation be that single, married, religious life or the priesthood, you need to set technology aside for part of each day and pay attention to the quiet voice of God speaking in the core of your being and in the depths of others,  as well!   In the stillness, what are you hearing?
In order to listen, one needs to come to stillness, quiet one’s emotions and one’s thoughts to hear God’s whispers or to hear concerns/truths spoken by others.  How do you quiet strong emotions? Find alone time, for one.  Second,   journal: “I am feeling……………………………………because/when   ………….What I need is……………………………..   If I you are dealing with an unresolved problem, ask yourself how you have contributed to that problem and what you need to do to arrive at a solution (not what does the other person need to do).  Record your answers in writing!  Then choose a time to apply the solution that will bring peace to you and others.

When you assume responsibility for a problem, when you take leadership in resolving a problem, when you listen, when you pay attention and come to the Lord, seeking His help and applying that help, “the Holy One of Israel has glorified you.”

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Discernment based on Isaiah 45: 4

The prophet Isaiah says to us in chapter 45:4: It is for the sake of my servant Jacob and of Israel my chosen one, that I have called you by your name, have given you a title though you do not know me.

You are called, not for your own sake, but for the sake of God's servants, patriarchal leaders--in this day and age we would include matriarchal leaders, as well--persons very precious and loyal to the Lord their God.  Who, in your past, are models of faithfulness to the Lord God and for whose sake you, too, aim to be true to what God is asking of you?

Isaiah says to you that God has called you by name. Think of a time, when among many others, the teacher or your parents or your employer called you by name to be the one to accomplish an important task.  The mission was given to you, not to a brother or sister, not to another student or another employer. The "title" was yours, so to speak. This is God doing the choosing, not a parent, not a teacher, not an employer.

Isaiah says that God is the one choosing you, calling you by name, bestowing a title upon you "though you do not [even] know" God.  Is that title "Christian," "Sister," "Brother," "Father," "Mother," "Aunt," "Uncle," "Grandmother," "Grandfather"?

I invite you to ponder these thoughts. Take time to reflect upon Isaiah 45:4!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Discernment: Call, Vocation, Response

Today, let us reflect upon Isaiah 42: 6, in which God says to us:  "I, Yahweh, have called you in saving justice, I have grasped you by the hand and shaped you; I have made you a covenant of the people and light to the nations..."

God is the Caller, the one who calls us "in saving justice."  We are called in righteousness!  This is not our own doing. It is God's action, God's doing.   God does not call us and then walk away. No! He "grasps us by the hand," like parents take the hand of a little child and walk with that child to the task they want him/her to do, or like a husband/wife who take each other;s hand in love.
The Caller also "shape[s] us. We are the clay in the Potter's hand, being shaped to hold that which needs to be held, to take on the shape needed to carry out the purpose for which the Potter created it!

An agreement, a covenant is created by YAHWEH--God agrees to be our God, our Redeemer, our Sanctifier, our Strength so that we carry out God's purposes for which we have been sent, namely, to be YAHWEH'S light in the darkness of the world! We are also called to remain true to God's way of relating to humankind: in love, in mercy, in compassion, in forgiveness!

This vocation is for all of us--no exceptions to this call to be a light in a world of darkness, to carry out God's covenant to create a just world, a world in which God's love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness become a reality for all of God's children.

How will you respond?

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Call, the Vocation and the Response

Discernment: Call, Vocation, Response

We will devote several blogs to what we learn from Old and New Testament passages.

 Let us begin with Baruch: 5: 2-4.  “Wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name. For God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship. Up Jerusalem! Stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.”

The Call, Vocation and Response:

·         To reflect the glory of God’s name
·         To show all the earth your splendor
·         To stand up on the heights (you are “wrapped in the cloak of justice from God”;  “you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship”)
·         To look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God”

This is everyone’s call—those who are married, those who are in religious life (men or women’s community), those who are single or those who are priests and deacons.

In what ways are you reflecting the glory of God's name? In what ways, by your life, do you show the world God's splendor? Do you stand tall, knowing that you are "wrapped in the cloak of justice from God" and that you will be "named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God's worship" for all eternity?  Do you believe and trust that God is gathering all of His children (and yours) from east and west? Are you rejoicing that God remembers all His children (and yours)?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Discernment: Starting Points

Discernment:  The past few blogs have focused on where to start in the discerning of your vocation in life, especially the vocation to priesthood or religious life. We have looked at the importance of self-knowledge and seeking feedback from family, friends, and colleagues who respect God call to religious life and to the priesthood.  We also recently looked at the important of honest self-appraisal and keeping a journal, recording your thoughts on a particular subject. Writing about your personal accomplishments and the current events in your life can also help you discern your vocation.

Other important  starting points or aspects of discernment of a vocation include praying regularly, being involved in your local parish ministries and talking with a spiritual companion who is trained to listen objectively and thus help you clarify your life in relationship to God.  Take the time, also, to visit different religious communities in your area, that is, in particular,  to visit a Vocation Director of various religious communities and, if considering the priesthood, look up the Diocesan  Vocation Director and arrange a visit!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Discernment of Your Vocation in Life

 Discernment of your vocation in life: In today’s reflection, we will look at two aspects of discernment that are important: 1) honesty with self, that is doing an honest self appraisal; 2) keeping a journal on a regular basis.  Why? Because journaling helps us grow in honesty with ourselves.  Writing also opens up the unconscious. Things we buried about ourselves eventually surface in the writing.  What is buried within is put out on paper.  There it is in plain sight! 

What to write: put down what you are thinking on a particular subject.  In this case, write down what you are thinking about each vocation in life, especially religious life and/or priesthood.  Look at your lifestyle preferences!  Doing this will clarify your perceptions.  Question yourself!  Are your thoughts true about that lifestyle? Are the exaggerate? Are they idealistic or realistic? Are they downright lies?  Do you need to do some rethinking about that particular lifestyle?

Take time to go back and reread entries.  What patterns are emerging?

Take all of this to prayer and share your thoughts—your journal entries—with the Lord! Also share with someone who will be supportive of what God may be asking of you.  That person might be a friend, a spiritual advisor, a teacher, a counselor, a parent, a grandparent.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Discernment: Questions to ask family, friends, or college professors

Discernment:  In the last blog, we looked at the importance of growing in self-knowledge as part of the discernment process.   We talked about knowing your personality. Are you a cheerful person, a person with whom it is easy to get along, someone who lights up the room when you enter, who makes things happen that promotes growth in yourself and others. Are you a self-started, an achiever, someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to transform a situation from hopelessness to hopefulness, from a darkness into a brightness. Are you a melancholic person, someone with whom it is difficult to work or live, who holds back and resistant to challenging work and to making necessary changes within oneself to make the world a better place.  And even if you describe yourself as the latter, are you willing to make changes in the way your relate to others or engage in ministry, in making a difference in the world around you?

Another part of discernment of your vocation in life, and especially if you feel called to religious life or priesthood, includes asking your family, friends, colleges what your talents and strengths are.  Other people may recognize your good qualities before you do.  They may see greater possibilities for your life than you do. Ask them! Ask more than one person, as someone you ask may be bent in only one direction for you and exclude others because, for instance, of unperceived prejudices toward religious life or priesthood.  

Friday, August 5, 2016

Discernment and Personality

Discerning a Vocation to religious life, priesthood, marriage or the single life?  Begin this discernment process with growing in self-knowledge. Take time to get to know yourself:  how would you describe your personality, that is, your character, your disposition, your temperament?  Would you or would other people, for instance, say that you have a cheerful personality? That you are easy to get along with, that you are a go-getter, self-starter, achiever, willing to do whatever it takes to make life enjoyable, livable, pleasant, growth-promoting? Or would you or others say  that you are someone who is difficult to live with because of a melancholic nature, a moody disposition, someone who is hesitant to contribute to the common good, who holds  back, is resistant to challenging work, who withholds love and conciliatory attitudes?  Would you or others describe you as optimistic or pessimistic, a positive or a negative person?

Given your personality, which vocation would be best for you and others who share that vocation with you: marriage, religious life, priesthood, the single life?    Are others saying: “You would be a good member of a religious community (women/men) because…..” You would make a good wife/mother, a good husband/father  because…..”  “ You would make a good priest because….”  “You would do best as a single person because….”

Think about it. Pray about it. Talk to others about it!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Discernment: A third sign of one's Vocation in Life

Rev. Martin Pable, OFM Cap, proposes three signs of a vocation:  a desire for the life, the right motivation for that life and fitness for the life.  In two previous blogs, we reflected upon the first two signs. In this blog, let us look at the third sign of a vocation; fitness for the life of becoming a woman/man religious or becoming a priest. Priesthood and religious life requires that a person is mentally, physically and emotionally healthy.  That means that one is able to live the priestly life or the life of a woman/man religious in a way that  builds community, not tears it down.  One needs to be comfortable, cheerful, and generous in the giving of oneself, in compromising solutions to problems and generating strong hope and a deep faith. One must have the strength, mentally and physically, to deal with the challenges and difficulties of life in ways that lead to new life. 

"The life itself," Rev. Pable states, "must suit you and you must suit the life and you aren't paying a horribly high price just to stay in. Somehow there must be a meshing of your interest and ability and competency with those of the religious life. Both must mesh."  Not everyone is cut out for religious life or the priesthood. That does not mean that they failed, are inadequate or are bad individuals anymore than a person who insists on being a musician without musical talent is a failure or a bad individual.  

What is good for you is the question you need to ask. In what do you thrive? Would it be religious life, priesthood, marriage or the single life?  Remember that God does not do violence to an individual, demanding that which is against that person's abilities, capabilities and inmost desires, Father Pable emphasizes.  If a vocation does not "fit" and you are in no way attracted to it, do not desire it, are not rightly motivated for it, nor "fit" for it, don't put it on and pretend it does!  Find the vocation that is right for you: you desire it, have the right motivations for it, and it "fits"--you are happy, comfortable and generous in the giving of yourself to meet its challenges and in dealing with the difficulties of life that are part of all vocations.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Discernment of a Call to Marriage

In the previous blog, we reflected on the second of three signs of a vocation to religious life or to the priesthood—wanting the life for the right reasons. The first sign is having a desire for the life. Let reflect now reflect on adequate and inadequate reasons for  choosing marriage.  In other words,if you are thinking of marriage, it is important to be asking yourself: What is motivating me to want to marry this man/woman or to want marriage in the first place at this point of time in my life?

Adequate reasons:

  •         I truly love this man/woman and I want to commit my life to him/her.
  •     I want to support this man/woman  for the rest of my life.
  •     In prayer, my desire to marry this person is confirmed. 
  •     I feel a deep love for this person and, in turn, I feel this person’s deep love for me. 
  •     We both desire to give our all to each other, in sickness and in health, in good times and difficult times. 
  •     Together we want to grow in love and respect of each other.
  •     We want to support each other in growing in our faith, in becoming our best selves, in raising children in the faith, and in developing our careers, our talents, our gifts for the good of each other and our children.  
  •     We want to help each other fulfill his/her dreams and meet his/her needs. 
  •     We want to be there emotionally for each other no matter what.
  •     Together we want to become the best man, the  best woman we are capable of achieving. 
  •     We want to be companions/partners for the rest of our lives.

Inadequate reasons:
  •      I can’t make it on my own.
  •          I’m lonely.
  •       I’m pregnant.
  •          I have to prove to others that I am an adult.
  •          I got to get away from an oppressive situation at home.
  •          I cannot live without a man/a woman, any man/any woman by my side.
  •          I’m a nobody without being married.
  •          This person needs me. I can save him/her. This person cannot make it without me.
  •          All my friends are getting married. My siblings are married. I have gotta be married, too.
  •          I’m a failure without marriage.
  •          My parents/my siblings/my friends want me to marry this person; but I don’t want think this is the right person for me. But I got to go ahead with it. My parents/siblings/friends insist on it.
  •          I don’t really love this person but he/she’s rich, beautiful physically. Others would die to marry into a wealthy family or to marry someone this beautiful physically/this handsome.  I’ve gotta go through with it even though it does not feel right for me.
  •          If I stay single, others will think I am a failure.
  •          I need someone to take care of me!
  •          He/she will make me happy!  I will feel complete with this person.
  •          This person has got money!
  •          I’m growing older.  It’s time to get married before it is too late.

Discernment: Signs of the Vocation to Which You Are Called

Discernment:   Let’s continue to reflect on three basic signs of a vocation, as presented in an article by Rev. Martin Pable, OFM Cap. The first of those three signs is  that you have a desire for the life you are considering. The second sign is that you want the life for the right reasons.  In other words, what is motivating you to want to marry this man/this woman, to want to be a priest or to enter a religious community of women/men, or choose the single lifestyle?    A Vocation Director will be searching for the motivation behind your desire to enter religious life or to become a priest.  Someone preparing you for marriage or counseling you about remaining single will also be concerned about your motivation. 

Adequate reasons would be wanting to enter religious life or become a priest would be wanting to serve the Lord above all else, wanting to participate solely in furthering the mission of the Church, to live the Gospel in a radical way, to grow in intimacy with the Lord by a life of prayer and service, and the sacrifices of  being a priest or living in a community of women/men religious, not having a husband/wife to love exclusively and raising a family together in faith. Wanting to live with others who share a common mission and desire to grow in faith and love by furthering the designs of God as revealed through communal discernment of God’s will is also the kind of motivation that indicates the possibility of being called to religious life and or to priesthood.

Inadequate reasons  for wanting to enter religious life or become priest would be looking for the security which members of a religious community enjoy or that a priest seems to enjoy: a roof over one’s  head, three meals a day, a bed to sleep in each night, the social life of  retirement with fellow religious/priests in one’s advanced age,  life insurance, so to speak, and lots of things for which  other people in the world scrounge.  Other inadequate motivations  would  be wanting to escape loneliness or a failed relationship, or thinking that being a religious or becoming a priest gives you status and instant recognition or that it is a glamorous life. A young man who was applying to enter a seminary  said to me : “I need to be honest. I’m attracted to the pomp and circumstances of being a priest.” If that is one's only motivation for entering a seminary or a religious congregation, then the call to priesthood or religious life needs to be questioned.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Discernment and Turbulent Waters

Discernment and Turbulent Waters:   In today’s Gospel, Matthew 14: 22-36, the disciples are out on the sea, buffeted by strong winds.  Jesus had stayed ashore to dismiss the crowd of about 5000 men plus all of the women and children that they had just fed.   “During the fourth watch of the night  [around 3:00 in the morning][Jesus] came toward them, walking on the sea.”  The disciples are terrified, thinking that they are seeing a ghost walking toward the boat.  Jesus, aware of their fright, says to them: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”  Peter says to Him: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus says: “Come.”  So Peter begins to walk on the turbulent water toward Jesus and as the winds whip around him, he becomes frightened, takes his eyes off Jesus and begins to sink.  “’Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him,” saying “O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

“If it is you, command me to come to you,”  Peter says to the Lord.  Peter gets out of the boat and begins to walk on the water. “Is he crazy,” we may ask!  “What’s he thinking? He is not capable of walking on water,”   we proclaim.  When you and I are contemplating something which we believe God is asking of us, like Peter, we may courageously step out into the turbulent waters because we believe that the Lord has called us, as He did Peter: “Come”  Jesus says to Peter when Peter says to Him: “If it is you, Lord, command me to come to you on the water.”  It’s like saying: “If it is you, Lord, calling me to remain single, to enter religious life, to study for the priesthood, to marry this woman/this man, bit me do so.”  “If it is you asking me to do such and such, bit me, Lord, to do it with courage and with faith.” Then the waves of criticism rise and we may get scared, begin to sink in our resolve. “Save me, Lord.” And immediately, Jesus reaches out His hand and walks with us to accomplish that of which, on our own, we are not capable!