5 keys to better discernment

prayingbw

Five general principles of discernment of God’s will that apply to all questions about it, and therefore to our question too, are the following:

  1. Always begin with data, with what we know for sure. Judge the unknown by the known, the uncertain by the certain. Adam and Eve neglected that principle in Eden and ignored God’s clear command and warning for the devil’s promised pig in a poke.
  2. Let your heart educate your mind. Let your love of God educate your reason in discerning his will. Jesus teaches this principle in John 7:17 to the Pharisees. (Would that certain Scripture scholars today would heed it!) They were asking how they could interpret his words, and he gave them the first principle of hermeneutics (the science of interpretation): “If your will were to do the will of my Father, you would understand my teaching.” The saints understand the Bible better than the theologians, because they understand its primary author, God, by loving him with their whole heart and their whole mind.
  3. Have a soft heart but a hard head. We should be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” sharp as a fox in thought but loyal as a dog in will and deed. Soft-heartedness does not excuse soft-headedness, and hard-headedness does not excuse hard-heartedness. In our hearts we should be “bleeding-heart liberals” and in our heads “stuck-in-the-mud conservatives.”
  4. All God’s signs should line up, by a kind of trigonometry. There are at least seven such signs: (1) Scripture, (2) church teaching, (3) human reason (which God created), (4) the appropriate situation, or circumstances (which he controls by his providence), (5) conscience, our innate sense of right and wrong, (6) our individual personal bent or desire or instincts, and (7) prayer. Test your choice by holding it up before God’s face. If one of these seven voices says no, don’t do it. If none say no, do it.
  5. Look for the fruits of the spirit, especially the first three: love, joy, and peace. If we are angry and anxious and worried, loveless and joyless and peaceless, we have no right to say we are sure of being securely in God’s will. Discernment itself should not be a stiff, brittle, anxious thing, but—since it too is part of God’s will for our lives—loving and joyful and peace-filled, more like a game than a war, more like writing love letters than taking final exams.

Read more from Peter Kreeft

Ya gotta have heart…

Those familiar with scripture will readily recall that the heart has a prominent place in both testaments.

In the Old Testament, God complains, through the prophets, about the superficial worship of the people, who offer material sacrifice, but their hearts are far from him. Proverbs speaks of wisdom entering one’s heart (Prov 2:10), the need to trust the Lord with all one’s heart (3.5), how a perverted heart devises evil (Prov 6.14), and that the Lord weighs the heart (Prov 21:2).

At the beginning of the New Testament, Mary is described as treasuring and pondering events in her heart. Then, there is that intense preacher in the desert, St. John the Baptist, who had people travel from all over the country into the desert to experience his ministry. What did his speech have that converted such difficult categories of people, like the greedy tax collectors, the tough military, and the professional prostitutes?  Even the haughty King Herod listened to his prisoner’s words.

The key is found in his description as ardens et lucens, ardent and illuminating. He appealed to both the mind, and to the heart. Malachi foretold a prophet who would turn the hearts of fathers to the children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. This was mentioned by Gabriel to John’s father, Zachary, in the Temple.

The Letters of St. Paul frequently speak in reference to the heart, such as when he asks Philemon to “refresh [his] heart in Christ” (Phlm1:20).  Christ always pleads with others in the hope their exchange enlarges his hearers’ hearts towards him.

Read more

Heaven!


“Heaven is God’s ideal, the repose of His intellect.  Let us add: it is the repose of His heart.  The heart goes further than the mind.  It has aspirations and impulses, unknown to genius, which go beyond all the bounds of inspiration and thought…  The transports that the divine vision will arouse in the elect will make their hearts superabound in the most unutterable joys; it will be a flood of delights and raptures, life in its inexhaustible richness and the very source of all good and all life.  It will be, as St Augustine goes on to say, like a gift from God of His own Heart, so that we may love and rejoice with all the energy of the love and joys of God Himself… The contemplation of God will not mean immobility but, above all, activity, an ever-ascending progression, where movement and repose will be bound together in ineffable harmony… They will go from glory to glory, from joy to joy…

Read more