How to Discern in Our Time
Occasionally, I hear people say that we are living in age of misinformation rather than an information age. There is so much data coming at us through social media that it is sometimes difficult to know who to follow or what to believe. Now that the U.S. general election has passed, I no longer hear the words “fact check” as often but the words are still on my mind when I hear politicians speak. I still have doubts about the bias of some media outlets versus others. In recent days I hear the phrase “fake news,” and I don’t know whom to believe.
Recently I overheard one of my Glenmary brothers ask another brother about the weather forecast for the next day. He was told by the second brother that it was going to snow. The first brother wasn’t convinced so he asked another brother who had a smart phone to check the weather forecast. The phone verified that indeed the forecast was calling for snow the next day and so he believed it was true. Interestingly enough, he did not believe the source he knew personally but chose to readily believe an outside source of information he thought to be more accurate than his own Glenmary brother.
When we are discerning our vocation calling, we might hear many different voices. In his book “To Save a Thousand Souls” Father Brett Brannen writes that, “there are four primary voices of discernment: God’s voice, the world’s voice, our own voice and Satan’s voice.” He goes on to say that when we are praying, we need to ask ourselves, whose voice am I hearing? “If it is the voice of God, obey it. If it is the voice of Satan or the world, rebuke it. But if it is your own voice, you need to decide if it is speaking the truth.”
The good news is that for our discernment purposes, there is truth in the Bible. That is one source that we can truly believe and not have to fact check. We can find truth in our prayer when we find ourselves growing closer to God and not being led further away. This is the voice of God that we can recognize because it will give us peace and not leave us feeling anxious or fearful. God will lift us up and offer us an invitation to grow closer to him.
The voice of Satan can deceive us and lead us astray. We hear it when we are trying to rationalize our wrong doings. We feel it in our conscience. What if we heard a voice in our prayer telling us that we are already good enough and therefore we did not need to pray so often or go to Mass? This obviously would be the deceptive voice of Satan. Satan may also try to mislead us with thoughts that we are not good enough, or holy enough.
We hear the voice of the world tempt us by telling us everyone else is doing it, so why don’t you? We are left feeling anxious or resentful to others. The voice of the world attempts to tell us that there is no bad choice in this world but that we should just enjoy life with no worries or no concern for others. But our conscience helps us to recognize that voice is not the truth.
When we hear the voice of God in our prayer of discernment we begin to recognize our vocational call is an invitation, not a commandment. We recognize that the invitation springs from God’s love for us. And our response is one of wanting to love him, to love others, to serve others and repent from our sins. God still calls and we are able to respond! This is truly the Good News in this age of misinformation and fake news.