In 2022, Pope Francis developed the theme of spiritual discernment during his Wednesday general audiences. Discernment is a demanding work of making sound judgments that require knowledge and faith. Here are excerpts from the catechesis series on discernment.
PUBLISHED ONApr 2023
Life Is Complicated!
Life is complicated and if we do not learn how to read it, as complicated as it is, we risk wasting our lives.
Choose Or Be Chosen For
Life always presents choices to us. If we do not make conscious choices, in the end, life chooses for us, taking us where we do not want to go.
Scripture And Church Teaching
One of the first indispensable aids [for discernment] is evaluating with the Word of God and the doctrine of the Church. They help us read what is stirring in our hearts, learn to recognize God’s voice, and distinguish it from other voices that seem to vie for our attention but leave us confused in the end.
How Does God’s Voice Sound
God’s voice does not impose itself; God’s voice is discreet, respectful, and humble, and, for that reason, produces peace. And it is only in peace that we can enter profoundly into ourselves and recognize the authentic desires the Lord has placed in our hearts.
Two Minutes Of Calm
Calm yourself down. Enter into yourself. Stop for two minutes. Witness what your heart is feeling. When we allow ourselves to be calm, God’s voice comes immediately.
For the believer, the Word of God is not simply a text to read. The Word of God is a living presence. It is a work of the Holy Spirit that comforts, instructs, and gives light, strength, refreshment, and a zest for life.
Telegrams From God
To read the Bible, to read a verse, one or two passages of the Bible, is like a short telegram from God that immediately goes to the heart. The Word of God is a little, real foretaste of heaven.
Back In Eden
A great saint and pastor, Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, understood this well when he wrote: “When I read Sacred Scripture, God returns and walks in the earthly paradise” (Letters, 49.3). With the Bible, we open the door to God who is taking a walk.
Heart Speaks To Heart
This affective relationship with the Bible, with Scripture, and with the Gospel, leads us to experience an affective relationship with the Lord Jesus. Let’s not be afraid of this! The heart speaks to another heart.
The Real God
We can often have a distorted idea about God, thinking of him as a sullen and harsh judge that is ready to catch us in the act. On the contrary, Jesus reveals a God who is full of compassion and tenderness for us, ready to sacrifice himself so he can come to us, just like the father in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).
A Memory …
I remember one time, there was a pilgrimage of young people done once a year to the Shrine of [Our Lady of] Lujan, 70 km away from Buenos Aires. It takes the whole day to travel there. I used to hear confessions during the night. A young man, who was about 22 years old, came completely covered with tattoos. “My God,” I thought, “who is this person?” And he said to me, “You know, I came because I have a serious problem, and I told my mother, and my mother told me, ‘Go to Our Lady. Make a pilgrimage and Our Lady will tell you.’ And I came. I was in touch with the Bible here. I listened to the Word of God and it touched my heart and I need to do this, this, this, this.”
God Wants You To Be Stronger
The Word of God touches the heart and changes your life. And I have witnessed this many times. Because the Lord does not want to destroy us. God wants us to be stronger and better, every day.
Learn From The Crucifix
Anyone who remains in front of the Crucifix senses newfound peace and learns not to be afraid of God because, on the cross, Jesus does not frighten anyone. It is the image of complete weakness, and, at the same time, of total love, capable of facing any trial for us.
How To Not Be Overwhelmed By Evil
The account of Jesus’ Passion is the surest way to face evil without being overwhelmed by it. There is no judgment or resignation there because it is shot through with the greatest light, the light of Easter, that allows us to see in those terrible deeds a greater plan that no impediment, obstacle, or failure can thwart.
A Bit Every Day
The Word of God opens every door because He is the door, He is the Lord. Let us pick up the Gospel, take the Bible in our hands–5 minutes a day, no more. Carry a pocket-size Gospel with you, in your purse, and when you are traveling, read it a bit. Read a small passage during the day. Allow the Word of God to draw near to your heart. Do this and you will see how your lives will change, with the proximity of the Word of God.
Friendship With God
It is very beautiful to think of our life with the Lord as a relationship with a friend which grows day by day. God loves us, He wants us to be his friends. Friendship with God is able to change the heart. Piety is one of the great gifts of the Holy Spirit, which gives us the ability to recognize God’s fatherhood. We have a tender Father, an affectionate Father, a Father who loves us, who has always loved us. When we experience this, our hearts melt. Doubts, fears, and feelings of unworthiness are dissolved. Nothing can hinder this love that comes from being in contact with the Lord.
The Holy Spirit
And this love reminds us of another great help, the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is present in us and who instructs us, makes the Word of God that we read come alive, suggests new meanings, opens doors that seem closed, and indicates paths in life where there seem to be only darkness and confusion. I ask you–Do you pray to the Holy Spirit? But who is he? The Great Unknown One. Sure, we pray to the Father with the Our Father. We pray to Jesus. But we forget the Spirit!
One time, when I was doing catechesis with children, I asked the question, “Which one of you knows who the Holy Spirit is?” And one of them said, “I know!”–“And who is he?”–“The paralytic,” he answered me. He had heard, “the Paraclete,” but thought that it was “paralytic.” How often is the Holy Spirit over there like a Person who doesn’t count? The Holy Spirit is the one who gives life to the soul! Let him enter. Speak with the Holy Spirit just like you speak with the Father and the Son. Speak with the Holy Spirit–who is anything but paralyzed, right? He is the Church’s strength; he is the one who will lead you forward. The Holy Spirit is discernment in the act, the presence of God in us. He is the gift, the greatest gift the Father assures to those who ask.
Lord, Help Me
The Liturgy of the Hours opens the main moments of daily prayer with this invocation: “O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me.” “Lord, help me!” because by myself I cannot move ahead, I cannot love, I cannot live…. This invocation for salvation is the uncontainable request that flows from the depths of our being. The goal of discernment is to recognize the salvation God is working on in my life. It reminds me that I am never alone and that, if I am struggling, it is because the stakes of the game are high.
Don’t Let Anything Get In The Way
The Holy Spirit is always with us. “Oh, Father, I’ve done something really bad. I need to go to confession. I cannot do anything…”. Okay, you’ve done something awful? Talk to the Spirit who is with you and tell him, “Help me, I did this really awful thing…”. “Father, I am in mortal sin” – that does not matter. Speak with Him so that he will help you and forgive you. Never abandon this dialogue with the Holy Spirit. And with these aids the Lord gives to us, there is no need to be afraid. Keep going forward, courageously and joyfully! Published in Aleteia