“He who wishes for anything but Christ, does not know what he wishes; he who asks for anything but Christ, does not know what he is asking; he who works, and not for Christ, does not know what he is doing.”
— St. Philip Neri
This morning’s lectio reading was the account of the death of John the Baptist. It is a story full of horrible choices and their outcomes. A young girl dances and the King makes a bad choice to give her whatever she wants. The girl makes a bad choice to ask her mother what she should have the King give her. The mother makes a bad choice out of anger and malice and thus John the Baptist is killed.
It is hard to be what we were created to be. It is hard to deal with our broken, flawed process of living that creates desires and makes decisions. Because it is hard, we often just go with the flow of our emotion or experiences, our events or environments. Thus we easily can make horrible decisions that have lasting consequences.
I regret that I did not learn about spiritual discernment until later in my life. I am firmly convinced that seeking to make choices based on discerning the spirits is one of the most important disciplines we can learn as followers of Jesus. To seek to understand and faithfully respond to the will of God for one’s life is the greatest discipline we can acquire. But, it is not the easy, wide road many try to take. It is the difficult, narrow path. It takes commitment, study, patience, and much, much prayer. It is a living process.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God– what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:2 NRS)
As I think back over the bad decisions I have made, I realize I made them when I had neglected my spiritual disciplines. I let other desires steal my focus away from where it should have been directed. I let one foolish decision lead to another and before long the consequences were painful.
As we become more committed, more faithful to the spiritual practices of discernment, the more we realize that it is not just good decisions we are making, but we are entering into a life of joy and peace no matter what our circumstances and/or situations. This is what our Lord wants for us.
Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:15-16 NRS)