Christianity cannot be reduced to a series of rules and obligations, but rather it is the fruit of an encounter with Jesus Christ. Flowing from this encounter with the person of Jesus Christ is an on-going path of conversion and transformation, the goal of which is the interior harmony needed to discover God’s will. Along these lines, when our time in this world is over, we will be judged according to how we have responded to God’s grace.
In this way, our purpose is not simply to multiple good works in a quest that only reinforces our narrow egos, but rather to discern what we are called to do. Our vocation as Christians is to deny our own limited perspectives and open ourselves to the voice of the Holy Spirit; to be opened to the living dynamism of God’s activity working in us.
The following are 4 Keys that can help us to discern God’s will
1) Freedom from Mortal Sin
In order to walk the path of discipleship, we must be in a state of grace. When we are clouded by the disorders of mortal sin, our hearts are unable to discover the voice of God speaking within. Regular confession is the necessary first step to discernment because it frees us from our attachments to sin, attachments which ultimately isolate us from God’s life.
2) Communion with the Church
Chesterton once argued that the Magisterium of the Catholic Church is a democracy spread out over 2,000 years. This kind of democracy is not simply a statistical majority, but rather the conformity whereby we are joined together in a living tradition. To discover God’s will, we must constantly be drawn out of ourselves and into the mystery of the Church. Communion expresses this well because it indicates a profound level of interpenetration. We are called to be “in” the Church and to have Church “within” us. By this, I mean that we must internalize the teachings of the Church to such an extent that it forms an integral part of our identity.
3) Contact with the Word of God
Our minds and hearts must be constantly nourished by the Word of God. We must consume and be consumed by the scriptures, having always before our gaze its wisdom and direction. In the scripture, we learn the contours of how God speaks, and the way that God speaks to each one of us as individuals does not add anything to scripture. Rather, our discernment is a discovery of how the Word of God takes flesh in us through our hearing and receptivity.
4) Unscripted Time
Discernment is as much about receiving as it is about doing and analyzing. Although it is through our intentional effort that we prepare the soil of our heart to be enlightened, we also must make time when we wait in eager expectation. We must make time to receive, and we must create the conditions for the spontaneous outpourings of the Holy Spirit, those moments of inspiration and insight in which the hidden parts of our hearts are awakened by Divine love. Without unscripted time, we will never learn to hear the voice of God because we will be too busy with our plans and ideas.
While these 4 keys may not exhaust all this needed for proper discernment, I hope they are helpful in providing a few insights into your relationship with Jesus Christ.
By FATHER IAN VANHEUSEN
(JULY 18, 2015)