The Spirit of God is at work in the world, and to tune into what God is doing in our lives, in our world, is to discern. The recent workings of the Plenary Council, brought the practice of discernment to the fore, yet it is seen throughout the Old and New Testaments. It is also central to Ignatian Spirituality, when five hundred years ago, Ignatius of Loyola discerned the different spirits at work within him, which led him to become increasingly sensitive to the choices that were life-giving and those that were not.
So, what can discernment bring to modern society, where the pace of life is often frenetic and superficial desires abound? Discernment puts us in touch with our authentic desires, connecting us with the desires of the Spirit of God, deep within us. Discernment invites the individual or group to pause, reflect and listen to the movements of the heart. Which actions and desires, bring life and energy, and which result in emptiness or desolation, where is God’s Spirit moving and active in our lives or in the life of the group?
As a society we have grown increasingly weary of the fractured nature of public and political discourse, of dominate voices of wealth and power, often silencing indigenous voices and those on the margins. Discernment opens a new way of being human, a more gentle, respectful, and loving way of being in touch with ourselves, others, and the Spirit of God at work in our world.
Discernment is at the centre of Pope Francis’ desire for a Synodal Church, a Church that is more inclusive through listening, dialogue, and prayer. The evolution of the Church and the world cries out for a different way of being, discernment is an invitation to collaborate with the Spirit in God’s work of ongoing creation.
The process of discernment and intentional or spiritual conversation is increasingly used within schools, boardrooms, parishes, and various community and ministry groups. Over the next few months, we shall be sharing reflections and Spiritual Exercises on discernment, as we seek to embrace a new way of proceeding, in a world hungry for change and a deeper sense of its humanity.
With thanks to Mary Robson for this contribution to the JISA Discernment Series. Mary is a Spiritual Director, Giver of the Spiritual Exercises, and Director of JISA Faber in Queensland.