September 22, 2000
volume 11, no. 178


Sister Lucy's GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER column for September 22, 2000

How to discern God's Will

        The Saints and holy people today are characterized by one common thread that was and is the secret of their sanctity. In all things, big and small, they sought the Will of God and worked to accomplish it. That is the way to holiness, the way of becoming a saint, the way to being a friend of God. If we want to know if we are on the road to being a saint, we need to ask ourselves: "Am I seeking to know Godís Will and am I trying to accomplish it in all that I do, think, and say?"

        Godís Will is easy to know sometimes. But at other times knowing His Will can be very difficult. Let me explain.

        How is it easy? Well, God gave us two great Commandments: "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself." Herein God clearly manifests His Will. This is what He wants of us. Jesus further adds: "If you love Me, keep My Commandments."

        The Ten Commandments as given to Moses for all of us are clear. We are to adore God Alone; not use His Name without reverence; keep Holy His Day; honor our fathers and mothers; we are not to kill; not to be impure; not to steal; not to be dishonest and not to covet anyone or anything that does belongs to someone else. (See the Book of Exodus) Of course there are implications in the above statements. For example, if we are not to be impure, then adultery, fornication, bestiality, homosexuality, pornography, sex outside of marriage, etc., are forbidden. Each of the other Commandments have other implications as well.

        If people want, then, to become holy, they should begin with careful observance of Godís Commandments. Therein He makes clear what His Will is and we will be saved if we observe His Laws.

        No one has an excuse for not knowing Godís Commandments and all they imply for the CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH as well as other good Catholic moral theology books make it all quite clear.

        But what about determining the Will of God in those areas that are not a matter of morals. Suppose, for example, you had to make a decision between two matters which were both good.

        As a young Sister I once had to decide whether I would make my year-end retreat in Council Bluffs, Iowa or here in Omaha. Both were good! How did I know which one God wanted me to make?

        At first one might think... well, what does it matter? And... could God have a concern as to which retreat I make? Yes! It does matter to God that we follow His Divine Inspirations and try to keep in tune to the movements of His Grace. We might have two (or more) good things before us... how do we know what Godís Will is?

        To solve my problem, I asked an old wise Jesuit that question. "Father, when a decision does not involve a moral matter and I must decide between two or more 'goods, how do I know what Godís Will is?"

        His answer was very Ignatian. That is, Ignatius wrote quite well regarding discernment and discernment of spirits. The good old Jesuitís answer was: "WEIGH THE PROS AND CONS."

        Wow! That seemed so simple and yet so deep. But it is true! God gave each of us an intellect and He expects us to use it to figure out our problems by weighing the pros and cons of our decisions. It IS His Will that we try to think things through. And then after weighing the pros and cons and even firstly, begging the Holy Spirit to guide and enlighten us, we make the best decision... given all of the implied circumstances.

        For the vast majority of us, God does not speak audibly. We have to WORK at figuring things out. Even if it means sitting down with pen and paper, writing the pros on one side and the cons on the other, that is what we should do!

        And please... donít be too quick to ask for signs! I know people who ask God for a sign for all too many things in their lives. That can be an excuse for not using their heads. But also, asking God for signs can take a form of tempting God.

        I learned way back in my novitiate that we should not be reckless about asking God for signs. Only twice in many, many years have I definitely asked God for a sign and in both times the matter was of extreme and weighty importance. On both occasions, also, sincere and heartfelt prayer precipitated the request for a sign.

        By asking God for signs in mundane matters, we run the risk of tempting and toying with Godís involvement in our lives. I would not do that haphazardly. Our daily lives must always include sincere and humble prayer that God will help us to know His Will in everything and give us the grace and strength to do it. This prayer, then, must be mixed with a sincere use of the intellect God gave us to solve our everyday problems.

        God bless you, dear reader.

    Sister Mary Lucy Astuto

The above is from one of her columns in A Call To Peace from 1996.

September 22, 2000
volume 11, no. 178

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