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The Worst Time to Discern

Man sitting and thinking deeply

The absolute worst time to make a discernment is when you're mired in sin. Yet, we do it all the time. Discernment isn't just about the meta-question of what you're called to do with your life. It's about prayerfully listening to what God is trying to tell you in the decisions of your life. Nothing could be more disruptive in the discernment process than habitual sin.

We were made to live a wonderful life, wrapped in grace, and free from the limitations of sin. Sadly, it's not the reality that most of us choose. In shortsightedness, immaturity, and for a variety of other reasons, we keep choosing sin over the freedom of God's law. When we continue to choose sin over what God offers, our decision making process becomes clouded. Like a room of smoke and mirrors, we think we see things that aren't really there. We convince ourselves of something other than reality and eventually reach a decision that we then claim is moral.

Although politicians are not alone in falling into the trap, certainly we all do, they present a clear illustration of this point. In the United States Congress, 31% of Members are Catholic. There are many Catholics in Congress who vote, speak, and advocate for issues that are in direct opposition to the positions of the Church, particularly on life issues. Some of those Catholics attend Mass regularly, and have reconciled their position in their minds. Through an obstructive reasoning process, they've come to conclude that they are still "good Catholics" even though they directly and publicly advocate against the Church, who's position is unambiguous. That's a discernment process that's been confused by sin.

Again, we all fall into this situation at one time or another, politicians are an easy target because their lives are so public. How do we get back to a healthy discernment process?

First, recognize that you may not like what you hear. You may discern that God is asking you to do something that is opposed to your current way of thinking. God has a way of doing that. While reading Matthew Kelly's new book Rediscover Jesus, I discerned that God was asking me to do more for the Christians in crisis in the Middle East. I was focused on other things, but He turned me back to an understanding that advocating for life is as much of being Catholic as advocating for and supporting the poor and the migrant. This message tracks with the message that Pope Francis has been bringing to us.

Next, you've got to get rid of that sin that's holding you back. It takes courage to do the things that it takes to beat sin. It takes courage to say that you've been wrong for too long and need to make things right. The freedom and clarity of mind and heart that wait for you on the other side are totally worth it. So do it.

Finally, you need to pray regularly. Start and end your day with prayer. Recognize grace in your life, be grateful throughout the day for blessings, and continue to turn your mind back to God. This is a struggle because travel, illness, or a major disruption in your schedule can knock you off of your game. Keep at it.

Discernment is the process by which we understand what God needs us to do for Him. We can only discern properly when we have a clean mind, a clear heart, and ears to listen. Be prepared to be challenged, be prepared to give your heart back to Him, and be prepared to experience life as it was meant to be lived.
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