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  • Vigilant, Combat-Ready, & Discerning (Book Club Part 6)
Vigilant, Combat-Ready, & Discerning (Book Club Part 6)

Vigilant, Combat-Ready, & Discerning (Book Club Part 6)

Our discussion of Gaudete et Exultate came to an end with an engaging conversation about our need to be vigilant, combat-ready and discerning.

As much as none of us like the militaristic sounding terms of “constant battle” and “spiritual combat,” we realize that when it comes to living a fully Christian life, the Pope is right: Christian life is a constant battle.  

The question is, with whom we are struggling?  

To say it is the devil raised a number of questions for us. 

First, we agreed that everything that comes from the devil is evil, but is all evil from the devil? 

What about human choices to do evil things? Can we blame the devil? 

Or do we need to admit that we are quite capable of thinking up and carrying out evil acts ourselves?

We talked about the difference between bad and evil. There are many things that occur in life that are bad but not evil. A car accident can bring about many bad things: injury, death, costly repairs, ongoing poor health, etc. But the accident is just that. An accident with bad outcomes. 

If, however, you drive the car into someone with the intent of doing harm, that is big time EVIL!  

Most of us don’t intentionally commit evil. However, if you are so wrapped up in yourself that you only worry about yourself, then choices to overlook, ignore or reject those in need are rooted in evil.

This harks directly back to Matthew 25: 31-46.  “Amen, I say what you did not do for these least ones, you did not do for me."

The Pope spoke of our time as a culture in which we can act very quickly, do many things at the same time, and yet not really be focused on any one thing. 

Discernment doesn’t work well in this scenario.Discernment asks us to focus, to reflect, to be present to, to pray with, learn about and be open to various possibilities before we choose or decide. 

In a culture of immediate gratification, discernment is often lost to the moment.  

To be holy or saintly we really do need to practice discernment, because it causes us to slow down, to think, pray and be present to and in relationship with the world about us, which is what the saints did and what we are called to do.      

We came to see how important Pope Francis’ call to be vigilant is in our lives. 

Being aware, alert, watchful, conscious, are all aspects of vigilance. If we are not vigilant, we will not be discerning or ready for the combat of the spiritual life.

Some phrases got us ruminating: “Christian triumph is always a cross … borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil.” (163) "Discernment is not a solipsistic self-analysis." (175) 

We were intrigued by how one could be aggressively tender and finally decided that it means we are to Do it! To be tender, always and in all ways. 

In other words, we are to be aware and intentional in caring for others as much as we can. 

As for “solipsistic self-analysis,” we concluded it means that we are not to confuse discernment with naval gazing or egocentric self indulgence.

Finally, we were encouraged by Pope Francis’ devotion to the Blessed Mother. 

Mary is indeed the very best model of a saintly life. In the Pope’s words, she “does not let us remain fallen and at times she takes us into her arms without judging us. ... She does not need us to tell her what is happening in our lives. All we need do is whisper, time and time again: Hail Mary.

Blessings on your journey of holiness!   

Questions for Your Reflection:

How is discerning different from making a well-informed decision? How can you practice discernment daily?

What are your thoughts regarding the power of the devil? Does blaming the devil become an excuse for you?  Do you take responsibility for the evils you do? How do you avoid evil?

How do you know when something comes from the Holy Spirit? 

What have you learned about the call to holiness?  Where do you see holiness?  

What are the lessons you can take from reading the exhortation?

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