Five Discernment Tips From Post-Resurrection Biblical Characters
The Scripture readings at Mass during the Easter season provide insights into the lives of people transformed by the resurrection of Jesus. Here are stories of some of those prominent individuals whose encounters with the Risen Christ offer important tips on discernment:
1. Mary of Magdala: Learn to let go.
Mary was weeping outside the empty tomb when Jesus appeared to her. Her grief was so devastating that she did not recognize Jesus in her midst. Calling her by name, Jesus told her, "Stop holding on to me." (Jn 20:17) It was not a reprimand to her but an invitation to let go.
Holding on to a devastating loss or a painful past can be paralyzing to discipleship. Letting go clears the obstacles to seeing Christ present in your life and hearing his voice calling your name. It also brings about a renewed sense of purpose in life. Mary hastily left that empty tomb and joyfully announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord." (Jn 20:18)
2. Thomas: Speak your doubts.
Thomas did not believe: "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into his side, I will not believe." (Jn 20:25) He got his wish. Jesus returned a week later. Jesus came with no reproach for Thomas for wanting to see for himself what others had seen. Jesus simply held out his hands, uncovered his side, and invited Thomas to touch the wounds.
Having reasonable doubts does not equal weak faith. It is healthy and can lead to stronger faith. Jesus wants to help you get past your reasonable doubts so that you can draw closer to him. Thomas recommitted his life to Jesus when he said, "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20:28)
3. Peter: Give what you have.
Peter looked intently at a crippled beggar and said to him, "I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus the Nazorean, rise and walk." (Acts 3:6) He was healed and started walking and jumping in praise to God.
To think that you have to be extremely intelligent and talented to consider the priesthood or religious life is a fallacy. Jesus calls people willing to let him fill them with his love so that they in turn can share it with others. This healing emboldened Peter to preach about Jesus even in very hostile public places.
4. Stephen: Be a man of prayer.
Acts of the Apostles describes Stephen as a "man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit," a courageous disciple "filled with grace and power."(Acts 6:5,8) He was a man of prayer.
Having a consistent prayer life attunes your heart and mind to the gentle voice of Jesus. Miracles happen when you are a person of prayer. As Stephen was being stoned to death for blasphemy, he "looked up intently to heaven" (Acts 7:55) and prayed for his persecutors. One of them was a young man named Saul who later converted and became Paul. Never underestimate the power of prayer!
5. Paul and Barnabas: Persevere in your challenges.
Paul and Barnabas were companions in many missionary journeys. There was opposition almost everywhere they traveled to preach. Paul spoke of being beaten and robbed. Yet they never gave up and faced these hardships with determination and perseverance.
Persevering in life challenges is key to persevering in discernment. How you face your hardships determines how you handle your discernment. A life at peace with personal hardships leaves one with sufficient time and energy to devote to discernment. Paul and Barnabas accepted the opposition to their preaching. That became part of their calling.
Easter is a season of new beginnings! It is a wonderful time to reignite your discernment. Take it from the folks in the Gospel of John and the Acts of the Apostles: let go, speak your doubts, give what you have, be a man of prayer, and persevere in your challenges!