DiscernmentLately I’ve been reading about spiritual discernment, the act of prayerfully discovering the path God would have us walk.  Because I often pray alone, I am fascinated by how discernment as a church calls for a group effort.

The reason is simple.  None of us has a complete understanding of God’s will.  I see what I am capable of seeing.  You hear what you can hear.  There is much that we both miss.  As a group, we will hear and see more completely.

For discernment to work, it must be inclusive.

Next comes prayer.  What is it that God would have us do in this situation?  Whether it is a question of who should serve or how we should act we have to pray. Of course, this also means that we have to wait for an answer.  Waiting is so often where we fall short.

For discernment to work, we must wait for an answer and not outrun the Holy Spirit.

Scripture is also a part of discernment.  This is a time for asking “what would Jesus have us do?”  It isn’t enough to have memorized verse after verse.  We have to hear, as St. Benedict put it, with the ear of our heart.  Argument and law aren’t the rules here.

For discernment to work, we have to listen and feel the Holy Spirit at work through, specifically the words of Christ.

In discernment, there isn’t a right answer and a wrong answer.  There is a Faithful answer and that is a both/and answer – both my concerns and your concerns must be addressed. This is very different from “the majority rules” or “you can’t please everybody.”  We can read one example of this is in Acts 6:1-7.  When Greek Jews complained that Greek widows aren’t being given aid comparable to that of Hebraic widows, the Hebraic Jews didn’t vote them down although as the majority they could have done so.  Instead they listened with their hearts and put a panel of Greeks over the alms distributions.  Everyone was happy.

For discernment to work, we must hear what everyone has to say and we act accordingly.

Just how different would our churches be if this is how they we made decisions?  To prayerfully applying the word of Christ even to our disagreements with each other.  It could solve a lot of problems.