In the last issue we talked about developing a “spiritual sense.” A person can refine this sense with experience by resolutely and faithfully following the path of Jesus Christ. If everything ended here, the evil one would never be able to conquer the person.
The second phase of discernment is to live constantly in God. The special ability that enables us to easily recognize and respond to the divine movements of God is the development within our interior of a spiritual sense. This spiritual sense is almost nonexistent at the beginning of our life; however, a person can refine this sense with experience by resolutely and faithfully following the path of Jesus Christ. This grace-filled gift allows us to recognize the unmistakable voice of Jesus. It is a loving instinct that permits us to distinguish the voice of the Spouse more easily in concert with all the sounds that present themselves to our hearing.
In the past issues we have looked at the first of two phases of discernment: to recognize God as the center of my life.
What type of thoughts or feelings direct me most toward God? What type of thoughts or feelings enclose me in my own world where I choose only my will?
The action of the Holy Spirit on the person oriented toward God:
The Spirit of God always attempts to maintain and keep reason and feeling oriented toward God. The Holy Spirit will try to make the believer’s level of adherence to God not only ideal and profound, but also detached from feelings of the heart. When a person is seriously oriented toward God, the Holy Spirit nourishes his feelings with spiritual consolations.
The first of two phases of discernment is to recognize God as the center of my life. There are primarily two entities involved: God and me. In discerning, we ask ourselves:
God speaks through our thoughts and feelings. It is of fundamental importance to know our thoughts and arguments and to understand where they come from in order to discern which to follow. The interaction between thought and feeling is important because it permits us to verify adherence to God or to the realities that take us away from God. Feelings can betray the effective adherence to God. I can have a good thought of Gospel content but associate it with a negative feeling. The question becomes: What is it that resists this thought that is good in itself?
Some final considerations: Any predominant fault will be opposed to either an active or passive pursuit of God’s will. We will either fail to actively do what God wants by disobeying, sinning against the virtue of charity or seeking our will over his own; or we will fail to passively desire what God does by rebelling against his will for us with complaining and growing impatient because things seem out of our control.
The examination of conscience is indispensable for gaining self-knowledge. Frequent confession and spiritual direction are also wonderful aids in finding our predominant faults.
We must seek to divide and conquer. Trying to root out all of our faults at once will only unsettle us and we will lose heart. It is not possible to do this anyway. Aim at only one objective at a time.
In the previous issue we examined the deadly sins of pride, anger and envy. We continue that examination of the seven deadly sins with those of lust, gluttony, avarice and sloth. The purpose is to enable an honest evaluation of our weaknesses and begin to take steps toward a positive change in our lives and to embrace our Lord’s mercy and forgiveness.
Before moving forward in A Disciple’s Journey to Holiness, let’s review the four R’s of mental prayer: read, reflect, relate and resolution. We end our meditation by choosing a practical concrete resolution to keep in mind and live throughout the day. Resolve to apply the grace from this meditation to transform you. You can, also, take a phrase or word that struck you—and repeat it throughout the day. This will keep your mind on the meditation and help to focus your thoughts and heart on God and following the example of Jesus.
Because our physical life is a good, as stated in a previous article, another aspect of our plan of life should be exercise. Thirty minutes of brisk exercise at least three times a week is a feasible goal. We must also combine this with a healthy diet and proper sleep. God gave us the night to rest and the light to work. Staying up late and sleeping in late are often signs of imbalance and disorder in our life.
The next element to establish a “plan of life” is to practice daily meditation and spiritual reading. As mentioned in earlier issues, it is in our daily meditation that our hearts and minds become like Christ’s because we spend time with him. (cf. Mt 6:6) In fact, meditation is nothing other than a discovery of God’s indwelling in our souls. He is already in us, we need only remove the obstacles in our wills and intellects to let him flood us with his sanctity. (cf Jn 14:12)
This first element involved in establishing a plan of life is to realize one very important fact: Holiness is for you and everyone else. It is possible? Yes, sanctity is not just for the priest, nun or monk living in some cloister somewhere. It is for you as well, and you must take advantage of the means available to achieve this marvelous destiny.