Saturday, December 31, 2016

Finding the Right Path in 2017

Discernment:  St. John says to us in 1 John 2: 20-21: …[Y]ou have the anointing that comes from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you not because you do not know the truth but because you do, and because every lie is alien to the truth.”

How frequently do we not pretend not to know the truth!  Yet, we do. The truth is hidden within the very core of our beings.  To access it, we need to become very still, as there are layers of voices that tempt to drown out the truth, to block our hearing the truth and our eyes from seeing the truth, as well!  It is so easy to “jump in other people’s boat” and simply go where they are going—no questions asked—or to mouth what they are mouthing without thinking our own thoughts or knowing what our own thoughts are.

To get out of “a boat” that is not ours or to stop mouthing other people’s “truths” and neglecting our own, we need solitude time, alone time, quiet time. We need to come apart with the Lord and ask to be enlightened. We need to ask for God’s wisdom to flood our souls! Without God, we are very likely to be deceived. And Satan, the Father of Lies, is very skilled and very intelligent—after all, he is a fallen angel--at leading us down a path upon which God does not want us to travel, as it will not bring us to the personal truth that will set us free!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Discernment: Learning to Listen to "the Angels" God sends as Guiding Messengers

Discernment:  Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Shortly after Jesus’ birth and after the Magi left to return to their perspective countries, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and warned him to make an immediate departure in the middle of the night for the land of Egypt. Herod would be searching for the child Jesus to kill him.  When in Egypt and those who wanted to kill Him had in fact themselves died, an angel again appeared to Joseph instructing him to return to Nazareth.  A third time, again in a dream, Joseph is counseled by an angel concerning the  place in Judea  to settle that would be best for the Holy Family.

Joseph is alert to heavenly messages. He listens to the good spirits guiding him as foster father of Jesus.  All along, Joseph is fulfilling the prophesies concerning Jesus, God's plan for his life as our Messiah.

As with the Holy Family, God has a plan for your life as well. If you follow the promptings of “the angels,” the messengers of the Lord speaking to you, guiding you to making right choices, you, too, will be growing in the skill of discernment.  As with Joseph, so, too, with you: you are being guided day and night with warnings and instructions. Do you heed God’s guiding  voice? Do you see God’s guiding hand? Do you trust your "dreams”? Joseph did!  You can, too!

May you develop the kind of intimacy with God that Joseph had developed  and that enabled him to hear God's voice, trust God's messengers that He sends to you in your dreams.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Discernment: Knowing You are in Harmony with God's Will

Discernment:  How do you know that you are in sync with God’s will?  You know that you are in harmony with God’s holy will for you  when you are able to “Sing a new song to the Lord,” as we pray in today’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 96.   When you become aware experientially that the Savior has been born in you, that God has taken on flesh and dwells within you, that is, your actions are actions of love and forgiveness, humble acknowledgement of wrongdoing or of sin in any of its forms: greed, selfishness, deceit, hatred, prejudice, envy or the like.  You know that you are in sync with the will of God when light shines in your darkness, that is, you  are enlightened, hope-filled, faith-filled and doing that which is the loving thing to do as guided by the Spirit. Your knowing is an inner knowing, of which you become aware in solitude, in sitting in the Presence of God, basking in the Light Who is Christ the Lord and being rejuvenated by God’s grace that comes to you through the Scriptures, the liturgy, the sacraments, and through acts of humility, repentance and, yes, love and reconciliation with those you are called upon to show love on a daily basis!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Discernment: What we learn from King Herod!

Discernment:  Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, those little boys two years and younger who Herod slaughtered in hopes of killing Jesus. Herod was a jealous, ambitious man, narcissistically pursuing power and control at other people’s expense.  Deceptively, he asked the Magi, on their return from worshiping the new born King, to let him know where to find him so he, too, could worship him. That was not his intent. He wanted Jesus killed so that his position of power and prestige would not be in jeopardy.  He would do whatever he needed to do to remove the threat!

Herod lacked discernment skills and thus, I believe, was blinded to the evil that had possessed his character.  Without reflecting upon his life, without developing an honest relationship with God, without seeking truth and being truthful, without being upright, Herod is easy prey to Satan’s deceptive ways. Herod would not, without reliance upon God, avoid the  evil into which Satan would lure him. 

To ward off the kind of evil that prompts us to achieve selfish, ambitious ends at any cost, and to ignore God's will,  we need to “grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of His power.  Put on the full armor of God so as to be able to resist the devil’s tactics. For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle,  but against the principalities and the ruling forces who are masters of the darkness in this world, the spirits of evil in the heavens” (Eph. 6:  10-12).   That is why,” St. Paul tell us, “you must take up all God’s armor, or you will not be able to put up any resistance on the evil day, or stand your ground even though you exert yourselves to the full”  (Eph 6: 13). 

How, you ask?  St. Paul counsels us as follows:“So stand your ground, with truth a belt round your waist, and uprightness a breastplate, wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace, and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to quench the burning arrows of the Evil One. And then you must take salvation as your helmet and the sword of the Spirit, that is, the word of God” (Ephesians 6: 10-17).

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Discernment: Recognizing Being A Disciple of Christ

Discernment:  In today’s Gospel, Luke 7: 18b-23, John the Baptist, who is in prison, asks his disciples to go to Jesus and ask whether he truly is “the one who is to come, or should we look for another,”  Jesus’ response is: “Go and tell John what you have seen and hear: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk , lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” 

How do I know that I am at one with the will of the Father or whether I am in the presence of a disciple of Christ? I will know that I am in harmony with the will of God or have  encountered a disciple of Christ by the same criteria that John the Baptist realized that Jesus was truly “the one who is go come.” When I am cooperating with grace or when I am in the presence of a disciple of Christ or I myself am acting as one of Jesus’ disciples:

  •           I will hear and see more clearly.
  • ·         There will be  a lightness in my  step (“the lame walk”).
  • ·          I will be one who carries news that strengthens “weak knees.”
  • ·         I will be one who brings hope to persons weighed down by hopelessness
  • ·         My eyes and ears will be opened to God’s Word.
  • ·         People will begin to believe in themselves and be more confident of their abilities. 
  • ·         My own confidence in my abilities will increase.
  • ·         The choices I make will put a spring in my steps and a song on my heart.
  • ·         I will be open to correction.
  • ·         I will rejoice in the good others do.
  • ·         I will be able to affirm others and myself; I will be able to acknowledge the good others and I do, just as Jesus identified the good He was accomplishing!
  • ·         My heart will be purified: I will be less selfish, less fearful, less worried, and so on.

How do you discern your discipleship?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Discernment: Developing a Discerning Heart

Discernment:  In today’s first reading, Zephaniah 3: 1-2, 9-13, the prophet Zephaniah issues a warning to us, saying: “Woe to the city, rebellious and polluted, to the tyrannical city!  She hears no voice, accepts no correction; in the Lord she has not trusted, to her God she has not drawn near. For then will I change and purify the lips of the peoples, that they all may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one accord; from beyond the rivers of Ethiopia and as far as the recesses of the North, they shall bring me offerings.”

Zephaniah tells us that on the day “that the Lord will change and purify the lips of the people, that they may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one accord… [we] need not be ashamed of all  your deeds, your  rebellious actions against me; for then will I remove from your midst the proud braggarts, and you shall no longer exalt yourself on my holy mountain. But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord.”

What do we learn about discernment from this passage? We learn to discern whether or not we are drawing closer to the Lord. If we are journeying in the right direction, we are becoming more honest with ourselves and others. We are also more open to correction.  We are taking steps to deepen our intimacy with the Lord: spending time in personal prayer, communing with the Lord honestly, taking our concerns to the Lord, not pretending that we are content, when we are not; not pretending that we are not worried, when we are; not pretending that we do not need any help, when we do and so on!  If we are on the right path, we take time to call upon the Lord in all the circumstances of our lives.  We bring our offerings to the Lord: all that is good within us and all that is not so good; all that is good in the world and all that is not good; all that is good in the lives of our families, our friends, our companions and all that is not so good.

May you grow in this kind of discernment and in ways that deepen your discerning heart and mind and will!