Free To Discern

06P pixabay 3As an American, I consider freedom to be hugely important. How important to you is your freedom? Who is the freest person you know? How would you define freedom?

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Freedom is not doing whatever we want, without any consequences. Unfortunately, this is often how people think of it today. Earlier in this blog in the Lectio Divina: Free in Christ, I tried to start unpacking what true freedom really is:

Sometimes we equate freedom with a lack of external constraints–such as rules, or walls, or consequences. But true freedom is really about a lack of inner constraints–from unhealthy attachments and addictions, from anger, from selfishness, from fear; above all, from sin.

Freedom is not an escape from, but an ability to choose for. Freedom truly is the ability to “Love, and do what you want,” but the key is that “what you want” is a pure desire, free from self-love and directed towards God.

Saints are truly free persons who are able to give themselves completely in love to others because they are confident in God’s love for them. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus broke out of the prison of fear to be fully free: he freely chose to embrace the will of his Father, out of complete confidence in his Father and out of the love for humanity which he shared with his Father.

It is important to grow in freedom as we are discerning. Otherwise the voices of our own ego or selfish desires can drown out God’s voice, no matter how God speaks to us. But learning to live in a spirit of discernment—like any aspect of the spiritual life—is gradual. A good discernment doesn’t require perfect freedom. However, we should at least try to recognize what our desires and attachments are in the area of this particular discernment, so that we can strive to let go of them as much as humanly possible. Even healthy, good desires and attachments—such as our satisfaction in a particular aspect of the Church’s mission, or our love for our family—can become impediments to true freedom if we make them more important than the will of God.

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To Journal About

What is your vision of freedom?

What are the biggest obstacles to freedom that you face in your current discernment?

After you have journaled about these questions, bring your answers and your desires to Jesus in prayer.

Free in Christ: Lectio Divina for Discerners

St. Paul in Prison by Rembrandt

St. Paul in Prison by Rembrandt

Free in Christ

Discerning with the Word: A Guided Lectio Divina for Discerners

Introduction: Freedom is essential to making a good discernment. But it is often misunderstood, seen solely as the elimination of all constraints. In this lectio divina, Saint Paul will guide us to reflect on and pray for the gift of interior freedom.

Lectio: Acts 16:16-40 and Galations 5:1, 13-14

Acts 16:16-40
Though flogged, chained, and imprisoned, Paul and Silas sang for joy

The passage from Acts is too long to quote, but you can find it in your Bible or here: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=297400123.

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).

Galations 5:1, 13-14
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery… For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

Read through both readings slowly and attentively, taking your time with them. 

Meditatio

How would you describe freedom?

We often pray to God for happiness; how often do we pray for the gift of freedom! And yet, Paul says here that Christ died to set us free!

Sometimes we equate freedom with a lack of external constraints–such as rules, or walls, or consequences. But for Paul, freedom is a lack of inner constraints–from unhealthy attachments and addictions, from anger, and from fear; above all, from sin.

Freedom is not an escape from, but an ability to choose for. Freedom truly is the ability to “Love, and do what you want,” but the key is that “what you want” is a pure desire, free from self-love and directed towards God.

Saints such as Saints Paul, Silas, and Mother Teresa are truly free persons–giving themselves completely in love to others because they are confident in God’s love for them. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus broke out of the prison of fear to be fully free: he freely chooses to do the will of his Father, out of complete confidence in his Father and out of the love for humanity which he shares with his Father.

What is your vision of freedom? Does it include the “slavery” of love? Can you imagine being in prison, but glowing with trust and joy, as Paul and Silas were when singing in prison?

Contemplatio

Thrown in prison for the sake of Christ, Paul and Silas are interiorly free. They sing and praise God; they are unafraid in the earthquake; they reach out to their jailer who is so fearful of the future that at one point he attempts to take his own life. Because Paul is looking at his circumstances with the eyes of Christ, he can see how even his imprisonment has led to the Gospel being proclaimed to more people (see Phil. 1:12-13).

  • How do I desire to grow in greater interior freedom?
  • What and who has God used to “form” me into the person I am today? How do I trust that God will continue to “form” me in the circumstance of my life?

Oratio

Love is the greatest freedom. Pray for the gift of freedom to love fully, without holding back:

Inflame My Heart with Love – by Blessed James Alberione

Jesus, Divine Master, I thank and bless you most meek Heart, which led you to give your life for me.  Your blood, your wounds, the scourges, the thorns, the cross, your bowed head tell my heart: “No one loves more than he who gives his life for the loved one.”  The Shepherd died to give life to the sheep.  I too want to spend my life for you.  Grant that you may always, everywhere, and in all things dispose of me for your greater glory and that I may always repeat: “Your will be done.”  Inflame my heart with holy love for you and for my brothers and sisters.

Actio

Today, notice the many occasions where you have the freedom to choose, and thank God each time for the gift of freedom. During the week, as you read the news, watch TV, listen to music, interact with others, consider: “What are some ways that people today long to be free?” Offer a prayer for them.