Readings: Acts 3:12-20, 1 Jn. 2:15–3:5 & Lk. 24:36b–48
Today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke, is Luke’s version of Jesus’ appearance to the apostles when they are gathered together in Jerusalem. It is similar in a number of respects to John’s account, but it is also different.
Rather than spending time talking about the similarities and differences between the two versions of this story, I would prefer to talk to you about something that caught my eye in our second reading, which was from the First Letter of John.
Verse 2 of chapter 3 states:
“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.”
What we will be has not yet been revealed. That is what caught my attention.
For several weeks now, my spiritual reflections in the weekly pew sheet have been about the process of spiritual discernment–discerning what God’s will is for us. And that is how this verse in John’s Letter speaks to me. What we will be can only be revealed to us through the process of spiritual discernment.
My Spiritual Director often reminds me, that our purpose in life is to become more ‘Christ–like’. We can never be exactly ‘like Christ’ – because He was both human and divine–but we can become ‘Christ–like’ in both our obedience to God’s will, and in the way that we treat others. To be obedient to God’s will, we must first know what God’s will for us is. And that, requires discernment.
What do I mean when I talk of discernment? Discernment is both a spiritual understanding, and an experiential knowledge, of how God is active in daily life, which is acquired through disciplined spiritual practice. It is faithful living and listening to God’s love and direction so that we can fulfill our individual calling and shared mission.
To discern means first of all to listen to God, to pay attention to God’s active presence, and then to obey God’s prompting, direction, leading, and guidance.
When we are spiritually deaf, we are not aware that anything important is happening in our lives. We keep running away from the present moment, and we try to create experiences that make our lives worthwhile. So we fill up our time to avoid the emptiness we otherwise would feel. When we are truly listening, we come to know that God is speaking to us, pointing the way, showing the direction. We simply need to learn to keep our ears open. Discernment is a life of listening to a deeper sound and marching to a different beat, a life in which we become “all ears.”
Discernment allows us to “see through” the appearance of things to their deeper meaning and come to know the inter-workings of God’s love and our own unique place in the world. The purpose of discernment is to know God’s will, that is, to find, accept, and affirm the unique way in which God’s love is manifest in our life. To know God’s will is to actively claim an intimate relationship with God, in the context of which we discover our deepest vocation and the desire to live that vocation to the fullest.
Being in a relationship with God is a prerequisite to discernment of God’s will and direction. As in any relationship, there will be feelings of rejection as well as attraction, resentment as well as gratitude, fear as well as love. There will be ups and downs in faithfulness as we discover new things about ourselves and God. In our dynamic relationship with God, we can be sure of one thing:
“If we are faithless, God is faithful still, for God cannot disown his own” (2 Tim. 2: 13).
Discernment is about noticing when and where God is active in our daily lives. To discern what it is that God wants us to do in and with our lives, requires us to spend time alone with God. When we are alone with God, we can listen to what He is saying to us. The challenge for us, is to develop a simple discipline or spiritual practice to embrace some empty time and empty space every day where we can listen to God.
One such discipline or practice is to simply read the Bible. By selecting a particular scripture verse from the gospel reading for the day, or a favourite psalm, or a sentence from a letter from Paul, you can create a space, in both your heart and mind, that will allow you to pay attention to what God might be saying to you.
As you read the particular passage of Scripture that you have chosen, focus on a word, a phrase or a verse that catches your attention. Read it several times, and ask yourself what it is about that particular word, phrase or verse that caught your attention. Don’t try to analyse it, or what it means, but just sit with it for a while and reflect on it.
What images come to mind as you reflect on it? Is there perhaps a recent incident in your life, or an encounter with a particular person, that suddenly comes into your thoughts as you are reflecting? This could be God trying to make you aware of something that he would like you to do in relation to that incident or person.
Once we are able to listen to what God is saying to us, we can then discern what it is that he wants us to do.
The Lord be with you.