Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
(Isaiah 50:5-9; Psalm 116:1-6,8-9; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35)
Developing the Gift of Discernment
“Get behind me, Satan.” (Mark 8:33)
Wouldn’t you hate to hear Jesus say these words to you? You can just imagine the look on Peter’s face when Jesus rebuked him. He must have gone from a beaming smile to a forlorn frown in a matter of seconds.
Did Peter love Jesus when he said: “You are the Christ”? Yes! Did he love Jesus when he urged him to avoid the cross? Yes! Peter loved Jesus with his whole heart on both occasions, even though the first response came from God, and the second one didn’t.
If it was hard for the great St. Peter to recognize the difference between godly truth and ungodly temptation, what hope could there possibly be for us? Sure, there are times when it’s not hard to spot the influence of the devil. But what about those times when we feel we are being sincere and honest, but we’re still wrong?
What about those times when we say something out of a good motivation, but it ends up being the wrong thing at the wrong time?
The first thing we need to do is admit that we don’t always get it right. We’re going to make mistakes and hurt people, even when we have good intentions. There will even be times, humbling though they may be, when our good intentions end up serving devilish purposes. Praise God for his mercy and patience!
Second, we need to know that the Holy Spirit wants to teach us how to live. St. Paul tells us that no matter how inscrutable the wisdom of God may be, “we have the mind of Christ.” This means we really can learn how to discern spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14, 16).
Over time, Peter learned how to discern God’s voice. He learned how to sort through his intentions and be a clearer instrument of God’s grace. We can, too. Just keep telling yourself: “I have the mind of Christ. I believe that the Holy Spirit is my guide.” With this little statement of faith, you can develop the gift of discernment.
“Lord, show me your ways so that I may discern your will.”
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- The first reading from Isaiah offers a prophetic foreshadowing of the passion of Jesus Christ. It also provides insights into the mind of a man of faith who knows that no matter what he may suffer, “The Lord God is my help, therefore, I am not disgraced,” “I shall not be put to shame,” “He is near who upholds my right.” When you experience difficulties and suffering, what role does your faith in Jesus Christ play in how you respond? What steps can you take to allow your faith to have a greater impact on your response?
- The Responsorial Psalm speaks of how gracious and merciful and caring the Lord’s is in the midst of great “distress and sorrow.” In what way is this Psalm also a psalm of hope and trust in the Lord? Share some times from your own life when the Lord “has heard my voice in supplication” and “inclined his ear to me the day I called.”
- In the second reading, James tells us that “faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” He goes on to say, “Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith from my works.” Why are works a demonstration of our faith? If you were put on trial to prove you are a Christian from your works, would there be enough evidence for a conviction?
- The Catechism (no. 161) states that “Believing in Jesus Christ and in the one who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation . . . therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘but he who endures to the end.’” How would you relate these words on the importance of faith to James’ words on the importance of works?
- In the Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples and the crowd (and us) these words, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” What do you think these words mean and how do they apply to you?
- In the meditation, we hear these words, “St. Paul tells us that no matter how inscrutable the wisdom of God may be, ‘we have the mind of Christ.’ This means we really can learn how to discern spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14, 16).” Do you believe that you have the mind of Christ and, therefore, are able to “discern spiritual things”? What are some of the characteristics of the way the Holy Spirit would speak to our minds, compared to the characteristics of how the devil (or our misled thoughts) might speak to us? Give some examples.
- Take some time now to pray for a deepening of the spiritual gift of discernment. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.