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Back The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sunday, August 9, 2020
Discernment is defined as “the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure.” Within our lives we are filled with choices. We often need to engage discernment to determine which choice is best for us in a particular situation.
This weekend’s Biblical lessons give evidence to that quality within our spiritual life. The great prophet Elijah is told by God to stand at the entrance of the cave he was dwelling in so that he may witness God pass by. There were several weather manifestations which for the chosen people were often a sign of God’s presence: a strong mighty wind, an earthquake, and the presence of naturally generated fire. Elijah though, discerned that God was not present in any of these. But, then he heard a small whispering sound. It was then that he went out of the cave to behold the one mighty living God.
In this weekend’s Biblical lesson from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus sends his apostles ahead of him in a boat. Jesus then dismisses the crowd that were most recently fed with five loaves and two fish and ascends a mountain to be alone in prayer and rest. Afterwards, his disciples beheld him approaching their boat that was being tossed about by the waves. They thought they were seeing a ghost for Jesus appeared to be walking upon the turbulent sea. He replies, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter then engages in the act of discernment. There are three possibilities in this manifestation: it is a evil spirit or ghost as perceived, it is their own misguided thought, or it truly is the Lord. In order to test the spectacle and discern further Peter would ask: “Lord, if it is you command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus replies: “come!” The fact that Peter began to successfully navigate the waves was his proof that this vision is truly the Lord. However, doubt enters in because of the conditions around him and he falters. Jesus rescues, goes into their boat, calms the sea and emphasizes the point: “Oh you of little faith.”
We learn from these Biblical lessons that we should not be afraid to “test the spirits” or question and discern which options may be the best for us in our walk of faith. We should not blindly follow just any inclination, teaching or whim. Proper discernment may take a bit of time and skillful investigation. During the fourth year that I was in the Discalced Carmelite Community, I perceived that the reason for me being led there was completed. However, one does not make life choice decisions on just a perception. I took an additional twelve months to prayerfully discern if this perception were indeed true. After about ten months my decision was made, and I began to make the necessary preparations for my next move in life.
May the Lord enable us to discern His will and His direction within our lives. May we have the courage to follow God’s direction even when the storms are raging around us. May these challenges of life and this gift of discernment continue to enable us to grow into the image God has for us.