Choices: How to Discern

by Kathleen Glavich, SND on August 7, 2019

in Blogs

Last week because I cannot bilocate I was faced with a decision:  Do I go to a friend’s family reunion Saturday or to a community celebration?  I wanted to attend both. We are faced with choices all day long, beginning with getting out of bed immediately or snoozing awhile:  Should I wear my new shoes or my old ones? Should I eat pizza or salad? Should I read a book or watch TV? There are also major decisions: where to go to school, whom to marry, where to live, what career to follow. Then there are moral choices to make: Do I give her the silent treatment or forgive her? Do I cheat this company or not? Do I give my bonus money to the poor or buy another new outfit?

Having to make choices can be challenging, even frustrating, but thank God we live in a free land and are blessed with a God-given free will.

In the Old Testament God told the Israelites, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19). In making a decision, we must opt for the choice that is life-giving for ourselves or for others. And this is not always the easiest path to take. King Solomon made the right choice when he asked God for wisdom to rule his people instead of more Arabian horses or a new concubine. Mary of Nazareth decided to say yes to God and cooperate with saving the human race from eternal separation from God. It didn’t take her long to discern because she had a habit of making right choices. However, her choice put Joseph in a quandary—what to do about his betrothed who was pregnant? He was fortunate because an angel gave him clear directions: Marry her.

Most of us do not receive messages from angels when we need advice. So how do we go about making a decision? First, we call upon someone more powerful than an angel who is eager to assist us, namely the Holy Spirit. Remember, this person has taken up residence in our hearts and at Baptism showered us with gifts like wisdom and understanding. Jesus called his Spirit the Paraclete, which means Counselor, someone who will guide us. Then we might also consult other people, our family members and friends who know us well and have our best interests at heart.

In moral cases, Scripture and the Church can shed light on the correct course of action to take. Jesus is a good example of making a moral life-giving choice. In the Garden of Olives, he had a daunting decision to make. He could go ahead with what would be an excruciating sacrifice or he could quit and go back to the safety of heaven. Luckily for us, he decided to go along with his Father’s wish.

Long ago Bishop Pilla of Cleveland suggested a plan for discernment. He said to make two columns: one labelled “pros” and the other “cons.” Fill in the columns and then reflect on what they tell you. It may be that the longer list does not contain the weightier items. The bottom line, the factor that most guides your choice,  Bishop Pilla said, is what your heart tells you to do.

In the end, if we have made the right decision, we will be at peace and have no regrets. By the way, I attended the community celebration and had a lovely time.

When have you made the right decision that led to good consequences?

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