How do you discern God’s will?
It isn’t easy to discern the will of God in our lives. When the prophet Jeremiah is sent by God to deliver a message no one wants to hear, the people are unwilling to listen, let alone discern whether or not Jeremiah is the prophet they need to hear: They will fight against you, God says. But God encourages Jeremiah, reassuring him that God loved him into existence – Before I formed you in the womb I knew you – and that Jeremiah has discerned God’s call rightly, the call to use the gifts God has given him to serve the people, even if the people are too stubborn to hear him. Psalm 71 reminds us that God is our rock and our fortress. Moreover, God knows what we are capable of because he created each of us with a purpose: You have taught me from my youth, the psalmist says, On you I depend from birth. With God’s help, we learn to grow in faith, entering always ever further into relationship with God, and thereby learning to hear God when God speaks to us. We can learn, with practice, to discern.
Like the people of Jeremiah’s time, the people of Nazareth are not open to discernment. When, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells them fairly clearly that he is the Messiah, the anointed one, they don’t really listen, let alone discern – instead, they doubt, which impedes their ability to discern that God is present among them in the person of Jesus, the Christ who came to reveal the depth of God’s love for his people. Indeed, they drive him out of the town! Whatever their gifts might be, those gifts do not allow the people of Nazareth to receive the insights they need to see the Messiah before them. They do not listen; they do not hear. They have failed their gifts; they have fallen short in discernment.
How do we discern if we are using our gifts for good or for vainglory? Paul tells the Corinthians that love that is patient and kind is at the core of discernment; if there is no love, the Corinthians’ gifts are useless because alone they cannot see clearly; they see only indistinctly, as in a mirror. Yet we must work to discern together, to listen to the truths others reveal to us, to expand each other’s vision out of love for God’s truth. It is our life journey to understand the gifts God has bestowed upon us; it is our life journey to discern, daily, even hour by hour, what God’s will is in our lives. Together, trusting that we are known by God from the womb, listening with love, we can model our own love on God’s love and discern, as best as humanly possible, God’s will.
This post is based on Fr. Pat’s Scripture class.