Friday, September 23, 2016

Discernment: What we Learn from Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11

In today’s first reading, Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11, we are reminded that  there “is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every  thing under the heavens”: birth and death, dying and rising, peace and war, tearing down and rising up, building and destroying what was built, planting and reaping what was planted, weeping and laughing, killing and healing, rending and sewing, keeping and throwing away, speaking and being silent, embracing and refraining from embracing, seeking and losing, loving and hating. “Oh, my goodness”, we might exclaim. Or “Give me a break!”

Can you discern what action is appropriate for you at this point of time? Are you to give “birth” to something yet to be born in your life? Are you to rise to a new occasion knocking at your door? Are you to tear something down and rebuild, plant something new or reap what you have already planted? Is it time for you to weep, to grieve a loss, or to rejoice at a gain?  It is time to keep what you have or throw something away so as to move on to something that challenges your growth into the best person you can become?  It is time to embrace what God is asking of you and refrain from embracing what others are expecting of you? Is it a time for you to seek for a partner in life or to explore other vocational choices? Is it a time to seek deeper meaning in your married life, in your religious life, in your single life,  and find ways to make a difference in your current situation?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

"Follow Me," says the Lord

Discerning God’s Call: Today is the feast of St. Matthew, an apostle and an evangelist and also a former tax collector.  Jesus  passes by Matthew’s custom post, notices Matthew and says to him: “Follow me.”  Jesus passes by your “custom post” as well. Notices you and says “Follow Me.”

Why do you think Matthew heard Jesus? Why do you think Matthew left his custom post, stopped collecting taxes—a lucrative business for him—and followed the Lord, who had nowhere to lay His head, who was becoming the disdain of the Pharisees and leaders of the time, whose life would eventually be on the line, so to speak.  Following Jesus was going to lead to Calvary, though that was not as yet revealed by Jesus.  As He drew the twelve apostles—Matthew would become one of those men—closer and closer to Himself, Jesus would reveal this information to them.  What was it about Jesus, then, that attracted Matthew and other disciples?  Why did Matthew, once he met Jesus, never leave Him? Why, even after the crucifixion and death of Jesus, did Matthew stay with the apostles during those dark days before the resurrection of Jesus?

Will you follow Jesus and stay with Him, even n the darkest of hours? Why or why not?  Jesus notices you, as He noticed Matthew at his custom post, and says “Follow Me?” Will you leave that activity which, like collecting taxes and exploiting others, as Matthew was doing prior to his conversion,  is not what Jesus asks of you?  Will you risk following Jesus when the Pharisees of our day taunt you? Will you cling to the Lord, sit at His feet and be taught what it means to build up the Kingdom of God?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Discernment: Prerequisites reflected in a Stream

Today's first reading, Proverbs 21: 1-6, 10-13 and the Gospel, Luke 8: 19-21, both provide us with insights into being one with the will of the Lord. In Proverbs, one who is in harmony with God's will is "[l]ike a the hand of the Lord; wherever it pleases [God, God] directs it."  Note the characteristics of a stream: it is small, flows from a larger source and into a larger source,  is inconspicuous, does nothing to attract people to itself. It also refreshes, sustains life, delights those who take time to "play" in it or to sit by its shore.  One who is allowing the Lord to direct one's life also is refreshed, delighted, sustained and given the grace to surrender by sitting at the Lord's feet, as one sits by the shore of a stream for refreshment and the renewal of one's spirit.  Allowing the Lord to direct one in whatever way the Lord chooses, a person, like John the Baptist,  is pleased to have Jesus increase  and he/she decrease, serving the needs of others, as a stream serves needs beyond itself. And like Mary, Jesus' Mother, truly is the handmaid of the Lord/the brother of Jesus.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Discernment of One's Will being in Harmony with God' Will

Discernment of God’s Will: In today’s first reading,  Proverbs 3: 27-34, and responsorial psalm,  Psalm 15,  we are given several ways to know whether our wills are in harmony with the will of God.

In today’s first reading, Proverbs 3: 27-34, God says to us:

“Refuse no one the good on which he [or she] has a claim when it is in your power to do it for [that person]. Say not to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give,’ when you can give at once. When a person accepts this instruction, he or she is at peace. That peace signals harmony with the will of God. Likewise when you “plot no evil against your neighbor, against one who lives at peace with you”; when you “[q]uarrel not with [a person] without cause, with one who has done you no harm….”  your will, again, is in harmony with the will of God.

In the responsorial psalm, the Lord continues to instruct us according to His holy will: “…walk blamelessly and do justice; …think the truth…slander not. …[H]arm not…[your]  neighbor …[H]onor those who fear the Lord.  …[L]end not [your] money in usury [at exorbitant interest rates] and accept no bribe against the innocent.  …[D]o these things [and you] shall never be disturbed.”

What do you and I need to do to bring our wills into harmony with the will of God, to live in harmony with others and with ourselves? In what ways are we helping others in need? In what ways are we honoring those who reverence the Lord?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Discernment: What we learn from Luke 5: 1-11

Discernment:  Note what we learn about discernment from today’s Gospel, Luke 5: 1-11, Jesus is teaching a crowd of people. The crowd is pressing upon him, listening, Luke tells us, “to the word of God”—truly to the Word of God made flesh.  Jesus, feeling about to be crushed, spots Simon’s fishing boat a ways off shore—the fishermen were washing their nets.  So Jesus walks out to the boat, gets into it and pushes out a bit further to secure some space for Himself.  When he finishes teaching, he says to Simon: “Put out into the deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.”  Simon does so, even though he and his companions have been fishing all night, are worn out, so to speak, know that there are no fish in the area yet does what Jesus asks of them: Pays out into the deep and, to their amazement, have an overwhelming catch. “Who is this man,” Peter and his partners must have wondered.   I can imagine Peter saying to himself: “We’ve fished all night and caught nothing. He says: ‘Go out into the deep and you will find fish.”  Peter may have said to himself initially:  “What? He’s not a professional fisherman! I am.”  Then says: “Okay, Lord, We will go out into the deep, as you have asked of us.”

Following this large catch of fish, Peter falls on his knees and says to Jesus: “Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” That does not faze Jesus. He says to Simon and his partners, James and John: “’Do not be afraid; from now on it is people you will be catching.’  Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.”

There are several lessons in this reading concerning the art of discernment:

  • The importance of creating space for ourselves, as Jesus did, if we are to discern what God is asking of us. Do you recognize when other people’s will for us, their expectations, are crowding out our ability to hear the Word of God speaking to our hearts?
  • That Jesus is our Master, knowing what is right for us in regard to our vocation in life or other serious choices we face? Do we listen to His instructions as Simon did, even when they make no sense to us?
  • Being honest with Jesus, naming our failures, identifying out frustrations and sharing those with the Lord, as Simon had done when he told Jesus that they “have worked hard all night long and caught nothing.”  When you are struggling with your call in life or with a particular decision, do you go to the Lord
  • The importance of falling on your knees before Jesus and recognizing your sinfulness, that is, your ability to walk away from what God is asking of you?
  •  Hearing Jesus say to you: ‘Be not afraid’
  • Leaving everything that would block you from knowing Jesus and doing the will of your God through Christ Jesus. What might you need to leave behind if you are going to embrace the vocation to which God is calling you or to follow His instructions?