“Christian spirituality consists entirely in allowing ourselves to be led by the Spirit!”
“Christian spirituality consists entirely in surrender to ABBA’s will!”
“Christian spirituality consists entirely in becoming identified with Christ Jesus!”
Each of these statements expresses the truth about Christian spirituality.
Yet each one of the above statements is interdependent and independent at the same time.
IMPERATIVE Discernment is not just optional!
“Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets
have gone out into the world.”(1 John 4:1)
Throughout the Hebrew Scripture the Lord makes clear that we are products of our past NOT prisoners unless
we let ourselves be. The PAST is one of many influences biology, physiology, psychology, spirituality, sociology,
familial, at each moment we are bombarded by attractions and repulsions in freedom we respond (in contrast to react).
Yet, our decisions are always marked by all of these influences.
GENESIS indicates that influences on us are more than neutral. As a matter of fact they are hostile and evil,
Satan incites our human ancestors to disobey: Adam and Eve fall.
Human harmony is broken; lust is let loose in our world; flesh declares war on spirit.
The human heart and human society are divided, but God doesn’t leave us stuck in the primordial mud.
The RUAH Adonai influences human history; leaders arise who are externally influenced, yet there is hope that
the Spirit will write The Law in the depths of our human hearts so that it’s not just external but will be accomplished
freely and fully. As the prophet preaches: “But this is the covenant which I will make wit the house of Israel after
those days, says the LORD. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33)
SYNOPTICS Christ is born of Mary by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.
As the priest Simeon predicts Jesus becomes a sign of contradiction that reveals
the secrets of human hearts. Christ’s mere presense forces discernment; it requires a choice. Into the Desert:
St. Luke proclaims that the, “Holy Spirit leads” Jesus into the desert, and St. Mark proclaims that the Holy
“Spirit drives” Jesus away into the desert. In that place where the adversary tempts Jesus to Greed, Celebrity, Power,
to tempt God. Jesus remains on the right path and teaches us how to do the same!
In his human freedom he chooses to live a life of true righteousness.
In Saint Matthew Chapter 5 he teaches us to exercise the same spirit-filled choice to do Abba’s will.
Jewish leaders cannot discern Jesus’ source of power so they accuse him of evil–they commit the sin against the Holy Spirit.
For only the poor, only the simple, can see what the rich and powerful are too complex,too offended.
The struggle between the Divine Light and Satanic Confusion is present among the first followers of the Lord Jesus
as we hear in Saint Matthew (16:21-23) “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem
and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, ‘God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.’
He turned and said to Peter, ‘get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does,
but as human beings do.’ ” Peter’s mind is confused, precisely in regard to what is paradoxical and repulsive
for the people in the work of Christ: THE CROSS. This is a sign that is constantly helping to discern true discipleship.
As the prophet preaches: ÒFor my thought are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways says the Lord.
As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways, says the LORD.Ó ( Isaiah 55: 8-9)
God’s thoughts are NOT our thoughts.
Jesus offers a simple rule for discerning between false and true prophets
“You will know them by their fruits–every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. (Mt 7:16-17)
Parable of the Sower (Mt 13:3-23) People who bear fruit are those who receive the Word
those who do not understand do not preserve at testing, or the word is choked by the cares of the world and money…
at times discernment is most painful when good and bad are inextricably mixed then we must leave the darnel among
the wheat until the harvest (Mt 13:24-30)
Reality of Spiritual Life There is a false peace which is the absence of occasions of sin
beware this is a tactical retreat by the Adversary rather than positive virtue violent storms of passion await.
Growth necessitates faith, prayer, fasting (Mt 17:20-21). Christ comes to both reveal Abba’s love and to battle Satan.
In Saint Mark exorcisms are in combat language mercy and healing along with destruction of Satan’s kingdom.
In the Book of Acts the Holy Spirit leads the early church as the Spirit leads Jesus into the desert. In SaintLuke
the Holy Spirit leads the church into the world into a full flowering of the Spirit’s activity in the apostolic church
signs and wonders become holiness and martyrdom. Teaching and preaching is full discernment in the ministry of the
early Christian Community.
In Saint Paul’s Writings the Christian life is perpetual discernment always-watchful attentiveness to avoid evil
and do good; a transfiguration of all life; truly worshipful living (Rm1:28;2:18;12:1-3) The capacity for discernment
grows as love grows and it is an act of love not just cold judgment of reason (Phil 1:9-10).
Clarity and maturity comes through, with and in Christ (Eph 4:13; 14-15).
Christian maturation takes advantage of resourcefulness of the Spirit not of the world (1Cor 2:11-12)
CRITERIA OF DISCERNMENT in SAINT PAUL
1. Truth: identity of Christ on the road to Damascus and in Church (Gal 1:12-19) “Jesus is Lord!” we proclaim
and live this truth live in light and peace doing the works of Holy Spirit (Eph 5:8-11; Rm 8:6).
2. Power: the Holy Spirit manifests self in signs and wonders miracles, charisms, confidence, courage (1Thes 1:4-5).
3. Love: the criteria of love = the criteria of the Holy Spirit ; charity is ecclesial (Gal 5:19-25; 1 Cor 13:1-7).
CRITERIA OF DISCERNMENT in SAINT JOHN as the contemplative John has a more unified yet stark vision:
The drama of salvation is a struggle between Light and Darkness
To accept the Light is to accept Jesus Christ who is the light from light, word made flesh
Gospel mission unfolds: John 8:47 “from God”, John 12:36 “children of light”, John 10:27;18:37 “hear and recognize”,
John 8:43 “not of light not of God”, John 8:41,44 “devil as father”.
Final Discourse: promised Holy Spirit another paraclete.
characteristics for discernment,Holy Spirit is not the ego but a principle of testimony of courage and combat,
Holy Spirit brings no new teaching or gospel but reveals the riches of person Jesus, Holy Spirit is discerned in Jesus
followers by love. At the very center of the church is the pierced Christ who delivers the Spirit over 19:30; the
violence of Satan revealed in the Passion. The Passion of God revealed in the flesh of Jesus.
He is victorious; the secret of discernment which Jesus possessed and which he gave us at our birth as church is the Holy Spirit
First John a treatise on discernment:Gnostics and those who know vs. true contemplatives see the simplicity of it all.
If we are children of the light we act in the light; if we are children of the darkness we act in darkness.
True origins show up in human behavior.
FRUITS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Gal 5: 22-23 contains the list of attributes that characterize Christian life that thrives under the sanctifying influence
of the Holy Spirit. This list is not exhaustive, but suggestive of the breadth of Spirit’s power to effect good in us,
the first fruit of the resurrection is the Holy Spirit.
The essence of Christian holiness is the permeating presence of a repentant and sacrificial love that reveals
a real sharing in the life of the Trinity. Fruit is the product of life in Spirit and the delight of life in the Holy Spirit.
Saint Paul appeals to creaturehood rather than moral prohibition “thou art” rather than “thou shalt not”!
Evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in the life of a Christian can serve as a positive
sign of genuine conversion that involves not only one’s outlook but also one’s behavior patterns.
The Fruit produced through the Spirit’s action can enliven the human spirit and counteract forces which could draw
that spirit downward. There are, however, no guarantees of holiness, rather the offer of a great adventure!
Christian Life is a far cry from the boring life caught up in sin and selfishness!
RESOURCE: “The Discernment of Spirits” (The Call of Silent Love, Cistercian Publications)