Discerning the Call of God

God intimately dwells within us by the gift of his Holy Spirit, which also unites us to one another by the divine love that is poured into our hearts.  By the grace of the Spirit, we can trust as well that the Lord will answer when we find ourselves asking, “What is it that God wants of me?” Learning how to receive the answer is called discernment.

The spiritual practice of discernment, which is an important part of every Christian’s life, is often connected in people’s minds to a decision related to one’s state in life. For example, “discerning a vocation” is one way we talk about a person praying, thinking and speaking with a vocations director about the priesthood or consecrated religious life.  However, there are other kinds of discernment. For anyone who desires to love God above all things, such prayerful reflection and listening to the Spirit is a part of everyday life as we seek to make the kind of choices that bring us closer to the Lord.

Discernment is not just limited to individuals but is also the gift and responsibility of the Christian community.  For this reason, it will feature prominently in the discussions today at our biannual Catechetical Day, which has as its theme, “Vocations and Holiness: I am a Mission.” Presented by our archdiocesan Office of Catechesis, this gathering will offer a number of workshops that focus on the practice of discernment and on the varied roles that parents, catechists, school teachers and pastoral leaders can have in the life of our young people. Our prayer is that this will be a grace-filled experience of the movement of the Holy Spirit in our community.

Pope Francis reminds us that youth need the tools to practice good discernment –  prayer, time for quiet reflection, understanding of the faith and the accompaniment of adults.  In turn, he says to young people,  “Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him.” Then he adds, “I am sure that, despite the noise and confusion seemingly prevalent in the world, this call continues to resonate in the depths of your heart so as to open it to joy in its fullness. This will be possible to the extent that, even with professional guides, you will learn how to undertake a journey of discernment to discover God’s plan in your life. Even when the journey is uncertain and you fall, God, rich in mercy, will extend his hand to pick you up” (Letter presenting preparatory document for 2018 Synod on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”).

The goal of all good discernment is to make decisions that reveal our love for God and our trust that as a loving Father, he truly knows what is best for us. While God may invite us “to set out towards a future which is unknown,” we should not be afraid.  As Pope Francis affirms, the journey the Lord calls us to undertake is “one which will surely lead to fulfilment, a future towards which he himself accompanies us.”