Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion(Jeremiah 20:7-9; Psalm 63:2-6,8-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27)
Developing and Growing in the Spiritual Gift of Discernment
Get behind me, Satan! (Matthew 16:23)
Amazing! In one moment, Jesus tells Peter that his words “You are the Messiah” had come from God himself (Matthew 16:17). Then, almost immediately afterward, because Peter is trying to dissuade him from the cross, Jesus rebukes him and calls him Satan. What happened?
In both cases, it was Peter’s mind that came to these conclusions. It was Peter’s voice that spoke the words. It was Peter’s good intentions that motivated him. Yet one message came from God, and the other, from the devil.
Even with the best of intentions, we can say and do things that help the devil instead of the Lord. This is why it’s so important to try to develop the gift of discernment.
Even after this strong rebuke from Jesus, Peter continued to find himself influenced by the devil. At the Last Supper, he joined the other disciples in arguing about which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24). Later that evening, he told Jesus that he would never deny him—but he did (22:31-34, 54-62). He even tried to keep Jesus from washing his feet (John 13:5-8). You would think that Peter would have learned by then!
But this isn’t the whole story. Peter did grow in his ability to discern God’s will. On Pentecost Sunday, his preaching converted thousands (Acts 2:37-41). His willingness to reach out to Cornelius and his family, even though they were Gentiles, enlarged everyone’s view of God’s plan (10:25-48).
Like Peter, we are going to be influenced by the devil and end up doing things that hinder God’s plan. It’s just the way we are as fallen people. But that’s not the whole story. Jesus wants to teach us how to identify the devil’s ploys. If you pray for grace and if you take time each day to reflect on your thoughts and actions, your gift of discernment will grow. You will think and act more like Jesus.
“Lord, fill me with your grace. Teach me to choose your will more and more.”
(Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing us to use meditations from their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission. The Word Among Us Mass Edition contains all the Mass readings and prayers, and a meditation for each of the daily and Sunday Masses.)
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- In the first reading, Jeremiah is so in tune with the Lord that he cannot hold back from speaking of him to others even though it often brings him “derision and reproach.” Could that be said of your faith? What are the obstacles that keep you from talking to someone about your faith in Christ?
- The responsorial psalm talks of the soul “thirsting” for God. Do you feel your soul is thirsty for the Lord? Why or why not? What can you do to water your soul?
- In the second reading, Paul speaks of making our bodies living sacrifices, acceptable to the Lord. What does that mean specifically for you? What steps can you take to make this a greater reality in your life?
- Paul goes on in the letter to the Romans to urge us not to be conformed to the world but rather “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” What has the biggest influence on your mind: television, newspapers, what others think and say — or Scripture? What specifically can you do to reduce the influence of the first three and increase the influence of Scriptures? What are some steps you can take to open yourself more to the work of the Holy Spirit in renewing your mind?
- In the Gospel, Jesus had to rebuke Peter, because Peter wanted to tell Christ what he needed to do. How can you increase your receptivity to Christ’s leading, rather than telling him what he needs to do for you?
- Jesus also spoke of the need to deny ourselves and take up our crosses. What cross is the Lord asking you to bear? How can the support of other Christians help you in bearing this cross?
- In the meditation, we hear these words: “Even with the best of intentions, we can say and do things that help the devil instead of the Lord. This is why it’s so important to try to develop the gift of discernment.” How would you describe how you use the spiritual gift of discernment in your life?
- The meditation goes on to say that “Jesus wants to teach us how to identify the devil’s ploys. If you pray for grace and if you take time each day to reflect on your thoughts and actions, your gift of discernment will grow. You will think and act more like Jesus.” What steps can you take to grow in this important spiritual gift?
- Take some time now to pray and ask the Lord for the grace to grow in your ability to discern his will and to continually submit your thoughts and attitudes to the Lord. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.