Discernment - a gift for our times

By Father Chris Thomas

Over the next two months I'd like to reflect on discernment, a gift of the spirit that is vital for us as we try to determine how God is calling us and leading us.
It seems to me that the only question that matters when reflecting on faith and life is: Do we love? Love is the core message of the Gospel. The kingdom of God is about love. I was once told that all our understanding and our theology and our practices come to nothing when we stand before God who will simply ask: Did you love?

If we are trying to discern God's will for our lives it's already laid out in the Scriptures. We are called to live our lives for love. God's primary call on our life is love, radical Gospel love.

The heart of the Gospel message is this: that an infinite God seeks and desires intimacy with the human soul. Richard Rohr says: "Once you experience such intimacy, only the intimate language of lovers describes what is going on for you: mystery, tenderness, singularity, specialness, changing the rules 'for me', nakedness, risk, ecstasy, incessant longing, and, of course also suffering."

It's when we know that truth that we'll be able to love as the Gospel invites us to. The Pope has recently said: "Agape, the love of each one of us for the other, from the closest to the furthest, is in fact the only way that Jesus has given us to find the way of salvation and of the Beatitudes." So love is really the plan that God has for us.
At the core of the Gospel philosophy of love is an appreciation of difference and respect for what is other. Agape love has nothing to do with like-minded people supporting one another. You know most of Jesus's stories are about foreigners, aliens and misfits being welcomed and loved so we have to ask ourselves whether our hearts have been so enlarged by the spirit of God that love is at the centre of our lives.
We are called to love with a love that goes beyond the emotional and the shallow. We are called to love with the sort of love that would go to the grave for the sake of humanity. That's God's call on our life but within that call to love, God has a specific calling for us and we'll look at ways to discover that next month.