By Msgr Philip Heng, SJ
All of humankind, as created by God in His image and likeness, are meant to live in the peace, joy and blessings of each other in God’s presence. Thus, the innate-natural longings of our heart is to love God with our “whole heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbours as Jesus has shown us.”
But, why then is this not happening as much as we desire our lives and the world to be and become? Why is our world, on the contrary, filled with so much pain and suffering of all kinds? What is going on in humanity?
Fundamentally, we can say that instead of using the gift of freedom that God has given us to love Him and one another, we have often not recognised God’s love and thus not used it as wholesomely and generously as we ought to have.
Let us begin our journey of “discernment” within the context of the reality of our normal daily living by asking ourselves personally, “Do I truly find my daily living to be meaningful, peaceful, joyful?” Many of us would respond, “I wish I am, but I am not … at least, not yet.” Others may add, “And I believe I am capable of finding deeper peace and joy in my life, but unfortunately, I don’t seem to be able to get a hold on my emotions and the many varied and complex things in my life.”
These spontaneous responses are not surprising because if we reflect more deeply on our daily living, we will “discover” that while we try so hard to provide for ourselves and the needs of our loved ones, we have often not yet been able to enter deeply enough to connect with the deeper spiritual realities of our lives i.e. our relationship with Jesus. As such, it is understandable that our daily “struggles” and even the “successes” of our lives have not given us the “deeper” fulfilment and more lasting joys that we long to have.
If we reflect on our lives more deeply, the “whys” are more important than the “whats” and “hows” of our daily living. For example, if I am conscious that I am living frugally because I love my children and spouse very much and I want to provide for their future needs, then my frugal living is more than about saving money. My frugality is an expression of my love for my family, and my sacrifices become daily opportunities and meaningful challenges of love.
In the greater scheme of life, there is one most important “why” that we need to confront and embrace, if we want to live a more discerning life. This “why” that we cannot avoid and ignore is: “Why am I in this world?” The fundamental response is “God created me and all of humanity … out of His love for us.” As such, does it not follow that the very purpose and meaning in life is to live it as fully as God wills of us, so that we can then eventually live with Him in His heavenly home for all eternity?
In other words, the starting point of our journey of “living a more discerning life” is the need to be clear of our ultimate destination in life. This is so that our “journey” in life has the goal of striving to reach this destination. For example, when we get into our car, we must know where we want to drive to; we do not drive around aimlessly.
As Christians, we believe that this “ultimate” destination can be realised because God’s love for us is unconditionally merciful, warmly compassionate and personally recognisable and discernible in our daily living. The later parts of this series will help us explore and enter more fully into this journey of discovering how to live a more discerning life.