If only it were that easy for us today. I have “seen and heard” some amazing things, but we are wise not always to trust our eyes and ears. David Copperfield can make the Statue of Liberty seem to disappear (illusion). Faith can heal, but some charlatan “faith healers” can make it seem as though people who cannot walk can suddenly dance from their wheelchairs. And our senses fool us when it appears as though the sun travels through our sky and around the earth when in fact it is the earth that circles the sun (misperceptions). So how do we, as people of faith, know when we are witnessing the acts of a faithful servant of God? Conversely, how do we recognize evil, illusions, charlatans, or just misperceptions?
I believe Jesus offers sound advice: if we judge at all, actions are much more reliable than words or trying to guess intentions. And the criterion Jesus offers as self-evident that He is doing God's work seems appropriate: caring for people who are marginalized and vulnerable is clearly God's work.
But what about our interior lives and our own actions? How do I know when I am acting in accordance with God's desires for me and our world? I am grateful that our Christian tradition has revealed people who offer guidance when discerning spirits, consolations and desolations, etc appear. Teresa of Avila's The Interior Castle, C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters, St. Ignatius’s The Spiritual Exercises, and Dean Brackley's The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times: New Perspectives on the Transformative Wisdom of Ignatius of Loyola are powerful places to start.
God who cares for the poor and marginalized, help us to learn how to discern and recognize your desire and will and to have the wisdom and courage to act accordingly.
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