Divine Dialogue

In spiritual circles, the word “discernment” has two meanings:      the perception or discovery of a movement of Spirit-given grace; and the procedure that best disposes a person for such discovery. However, behind these concepts is the important faith vision that is fundamental to our relationship with God: namely, that God is constantly communicating to us his will and direction for our lives.

In the article, Living the Spiritual Life, we said that the practice of the Awareness Examen helps us to grow our sensitivity to God’s revelatory presence.  But behind that practice must be our faith vision of God and of ourselves in God’s plan for us. Our faith vision must drive our practice or we will become discouraged with our practice.

First, we must believe that God speaks his word to us through the situations and events of our individual and community life. Second, we must believe that we can prophetically discern the oracle of God mediated to us through our life events by the experience of feeling within ourselves a transcendent personal reality judging our choices. That transcendent personal reality is the presence of the Holy Spirit within us that enables us to prophesy, to discern the actual word of God to us in our life events.

Spiritual Discernment. John Carroll Futrell, SJ states in the Jesuit publication, Studies: “The goal of spiritual discernment then is to become conscious of the Holy Spirit bearing witness within us that  we have recognized the actual word of God spoken to us here and now in the event. It is to have the testimony of God himself that our choice is an authentic response to his existential call to us.” Its goal is to find God and his will for us. When we do, we receive the confirmation of an interior experience of unique peace and joy which tells us: “It is the Lord.”

In the Old Testament, the Lord assures his people that his word is not hidden in the heavens or beyond the sea: “No, the Word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance.” Deut. 30:11-14. The New Testament is even more explicit about the Holy Spirit living within us so that we can recognize the word of God to us: “But you have had the Holy Spirit poured out on you by Christ, and so all of you know the truth.”1 John 2:20. “For his Spirit teaches you about everything.” 1 John 2:27.

Spiritual Life. Spiritual discernment is not just one more spiritual exercise among many. It is at the heart of the spiritual life, at the heart of our relationship with God. Nothing nourishes a personal relationship more than positive communications. Our relationship with God is nourished by God speaking to us and by us attempting to discern his messages with the help of the Holy Spirit, so we can respond to the will of God.

Our faith vision of God and our two-way communications made possible through spiritual discernment help put God at the center of our lives. God pervades all our life and his will for us is a paramount question for us as we engage in all life situations. Our goal is to make God the center around which our thoughts, feelings and desires gravitate.

Contemplative Insight. Also, we now see that the Awareness Examen as well as our other spiritual practices such as bible study, spiritual reading and spiritual direction are not ends in themselves. They are exercises seeking contemplative insight. Fr. Ladislas Orsy, SJ defines contemplative insight as “knowledge obtained not so much by human effort and creativity as through God’s gracious gift.”

Again, such knowledge is authenticated through God-given feelings of peace and joy. It is certainly more than the mere logical outcome of a reasoning process. If our reasoning is the sole source of our insight, the divine dialogue has not taken place. Discernment power grows out of  habitually prayerful life.  It can’t be turned on for special occasions.

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