In these moments of silence…
become aware of God’s nearness to you today…
Seek the thoughts
- that put meaning in your life…
- that help you face challenges…
- that give you hope and consolation…
Ephesians 1:17,18 NRSV
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,
Paul is asking God to give the Christians of Ephesus the gift of spiritual discernment, the inward vision that is as important for our spiritual well-being as are our eyes and other bodily senses for our negotiation of the physical world. Spiritual discernment comes from an awareness of God’s providence watching over the whole of life. It helps us to recognise that anything that harms or diminishes us makes us less human, less than God created us to be.
In the prayer that Jesus taught us, we say ‘Your will be done’, and discernment means just that: seeking to do God’s will, learning to distinguish between the experiences in our lives that harmonize with what God wants for us, and those that do not. Spiritual discernment – Ignatius of Loyola calls it ‘discernment of spirits’ – is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is closely linked to hope, which leads us to tune in to the nearness of God.
Spiritual discernment fine-tunes the melody of hope so that it remains audible in our lives. This means that, with our ‘inward’ eyes illumined, and our ears attuned to God’s voice, our decisions, the directions we take in our lives, will reflect the hope to which God calls us.
Pope Francis, in the homily for his inaugural Mass in 2013, said this: “Today, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope, it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope!”
In responding to this time of prayer today, you might like to take a short walk, and notice the beauty and fragility of nature in your own neighbourhood. Ask for the grace to see more clearly that the physical universe, beautiful yet vulnerable, calls for our compassion and protection as well as our admiration.
If you cannot do this, you might like to be attentive today to signs of hope in news bulletins, and in your personal life: in your meetings, your conversations, your daily activities…
St Richard of Chichester’s famous prayer ends with a plea for the gift of discernment.
Say this prayer before you sleep tonight:
‘Merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day.’
Hope gives us the capacity to discern glimmers of light even when we are surrounded by the most pervasive darkness. Hope enables us to walk into the future without knowing precisely how things will turn out, but with confidence in God’s loving providence, no matter what happens.