March 22, 2017
For all of you who are D I S C E R N I N G , listen up!
That's right, I used the Catholic "D" word. A one-word equivalent of, "I don't know but I don't want to say 'I don't know' because that seems like I haven't thought about it. I've been thinking a lot about it, okay? In fact, it's pretty much all I think about. Should I or shouldn't I? What if God is calling me elsewhere? What if God is calling me here. Is this something that I'm just making up because I want to do it? Maybe. Okay, now I think I know, but I'm not sure enough to act. I'll pray for a little more confirmation..."
Now you know my thought process when I ask myself, "Should I eat another Oreo?" Just kidding. I wish I thought that hard about it. (I don't think at all about it.)
I think we need to make a little more light of discernment. It's easy for the process of determining God's will in our lives to get pretty heavy pretty quickly. It's serious subject matter. But at the heart of things, we need to keep one humbling thought at the fore: "I can't know God's will for sure." The easiest way to do that in my life has been to laugh at the process of discernment sometimes; it's an awkward juxtaposition of our eagerness and our hesitancy. We want to commit, but it's hard to commit to committing.
Needless to say, many great minds have grappled with the topic throughout history. St. Ignatius perhaps tackled it most directly when he wrote his rules for the "discernment of spirits" in his Spiritual Exercises. Rule Five reads like this:
The fifth: In time of desolation [read: struggling to feel close to God] never to make a change; but to be firm and constant in the resolutions and determination in which one was the day preceding such desolation, or in the determination in which he was in the preceding consolation. Because, as in consolation it is rather the good spirit who guides and counsels us, so in desolation it is the bad, with whose counsels we cannot take a course to decide rightly. (Emphasis added)
The whole topic of Discernment is far, far too large for any reflection to take on, so I wanted to make one key connection between this Ignatian rule and today's readings.
"However, take care and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children's children."
God speaks clearly in our lives. If He hasn't, why are you practicing your faith? It often takes a good bit of contemplation and reflection to tease out His Word, but it's there, planted deep within us through his Scripture, the Sacraments, and the Church. Take a moment to reflect on those powerful, goosebump-evoking moments where God has burst into your life.
Now take another moment to cherish them, to ponder them in your heart as Mary did. God loves you, so much that He came down to meet you in Bethlehem, and then again in those moments you recall.
When discerning the course of your life, let all of the accusations and fears melt away in His hands, and guard these God-filled moments above all, because they are the truest voice of God in your life.
Praised be Jesus Christ, the Way.
As a parting gift, HERE is a link to an excellent podcast series by Fr. Timothy Gallagher on the Discernment of Spirits. He breaks down the Ignatian rules one by one.