Monday, January 5, 2015

Discern More Certainly

I've been talking about discernment the last few months, and I’d like to add a few more comments to the subject.

Many persons believe that they discern through the Holy Spirit. However, some of these people, including current members of the Church, don’t believe Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, but that one religion is as good as another and eventually we’ll all go to heaven. In the opinion of many Christians, this is not what Christ and His disciples taught.

Jesus Christ's mission on Earth included instruction about our sins, His atonement for them, and the clear message that belief in Him alone, as part of the Trinity including God the Father and Holy Spirit, is the only way to living in spiritual freedom with God in heaven. Jesus talked to the disciples about sending His Spirit after He was gone. Then, on the day of Pentecost as told in the Book of Acts, Chapter 2 (NIV), the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and they could speak other languages. They came to understand Christ better because of the Holy Spirit.

Later in the Bible, St. Paul writes quite a bit about the Holy Spirit, for example in Romans 8 and the Book of Ephesians. He links the Holy Spirit very strongly with belief in Christ.

Women and men who don’t have this faith are logically and spiritually incomplete. God can direct us in times when we are on the wrong path, and He often does so to bring the lost to His kingdom. Yet I believe the best way by far for us to commune with His Spirit is to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. If your belief is incorrect, your discernment can be mistaken.

Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit: three persons of one essence. If you do not have proper relationship with one, you do not have proper relationship with the totality of God. If you think any religion is as good as another (the idea is called “Indifferentism”), you are susceptible to being wrong about the thoughts you are following. Even true believers may not be perfect in discerning the Holy Spirit, but a false set of mind will muddy an already difficult process.

I’ve talked about women having personal callings from God about what to do with their lives. I wanted to add these further thoughts about discernment, because I’ve read and heard a lot of what I consider wrong thinking about the faith itself from many Catholic women leaders, such as theologians and religious sisters. Much as I want to see progress in the Church for women, it should never happen at the expense of Truth. Women (and men) who are not truly Christian may well be following the wrong voices down the wrong path. Yet all persons who understand Christ’s true message can and should lead others to Him.

I'd like to repeat here an aspect of discernment that is important in many situations. In the Bible, Paul says we should agree with each other (1 Corinthians 1:10). This is very difficult for us. It seems we all have an opinion, and it is very natural to think our way is God’s way. So unless we have an open mind that God might want something different, it will be hard to listen for His direction.

Pope Francis has tried to tell those who are rigid in their opinions that we can be “surprised by God.” The hope is that, when we have conflict, God can bring us to fuller understanding and greater clarity. I believe God often uses life’s experiences in this way, and so it can take time. But if we persist with our hearts in the right place, it can be worth every bit of the wait.

And so our prayers for discernment together as Christians should continue whenever there is disagreement. And we must be sure to pray to the True Lord.

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