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"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20


Discernment and the Holy Spirit

Laura DeMaria

When I was on retreat earlier this year I had a conversation with my priest about discernment. There was something in my life I was trying to make a decision about, and I felt I had interpreted some pretty specific signs, leading me to believe I had discerned a very clear and certain way forward on that particular question.

His response surprised me. As he explained, discernment of God's will in your life is less about concrete signs and more about reading the push and pull of all the directions of your life. Big decisions rarely come with an "I'm the right choice!" kind of sign, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was correct. You will see God move in one direction, and then the other, and it is up to you to discern what is going on.

Which leads me to another thought: there was a time in my life when I always needed to know what came next. Spoiler alert: life doesn't work that way. If William Shakespeare tells us life is a stage or a play, that's fine, but I can tell you all I know is that there is another act coming and I don't know what my lines or costume are. You just have to show up and play along. And, usually, it works out fine.

What changed my attitude about needing to know "how things turn out" was the realization that there is never just one purely right choice. Think about if you are considering a new job, a relationships or a trip somewhere. There have been countless, infinite instances where you could have chosen another job, another date, another trip - and so what? There was never one singular path you were destined for. You make a decision based on what you know at the time, using the best information and guesses you have. And then, you move on.

The other element that makes this easier is trust in God. I write, and think, so much about this because I do not think it is the most natural part of human nature to say, "Okay, God, you take this one!" But that's where the Holy Spirit comes in. This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, also known as the birth of the Church and we are right in the middle of the Pentecost Novena (not too late to join!). In my own prayers during this novena, I am not exactly asking for anything concrete, but rather, the ability to discern via the Holy Spirit where my path is taking me, generally speaking. That's it. The gift of discernment. And then to follow His will, wherever it takes me, without shock or question, but with full trust. That must be one of the greatest gifts of the Holy Spirit - full trust in our Lord.