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Interiority and Discernment
Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, it fills my heart to the brim to speak with you and to experience your loving hand guiding my life. Help me to always recognize your voice within the depths of my soul and to respond with ease.
- Who Is the Good Shepherd?: A newly ordained priest once asked a group of children, “In this story of the Good Shepherd, who do you think the sheep are?” They answered, “Us.” “And who is the Shepherd?” Little voices in unison called out, “Jesus.” The priest, a bit abashed and confused, then asked, “And so who would that make me?” After some thought, a boy raised his hand and offered, “The sheepdog, I guess.” The priest now chuckles as he shares this humbling story. Sometimes in life we realize that the expectations we have of ourselves are not the same as those that others have of us. So, too, God’s expectations of us may differ from our own. Like sheep, we must attend to the Shepherd through prayer and the Sacraments so that we’re meeting his expectations for our lives, not those of ourselves or others.
- Interiority: Christ says, “I know mine and mine know me.” Jesus is a Shepherd most especially to those who develop a relationship with him. Even though God gives us human support through others and entrusts his priests with a shepherding role, God also speaks to each one of us in his or her heart. “I searched for you outside myself, while all along you were within me,” says St. Augustine. The search for God is a dynamic of our interior life that leads to encounter with him. Finding God is a work and discovery of the human heart. By his grace and through our heartfelt effort in prayer, we can be sure of his constant companionship.
- Discernment and Choice: As life progresses, so too does our experience and our need to make choices and accept the consequences of those choices. Often, we can feel overwhelmed by the overabundance of choices our society offers. I remember coming back to the United States after living abroad for five years and finding far too many kinds of butter in the supermarket. I spent forever making a decision! We also sometimes have to make critical and life-changing choices about who to marry, what to do after a divorce, how to cope with an illness in the family, and who to turn to for advice. Priests, spiritual guides, and good friends are there to offer support, but ultimately we are responsible for discerning the advice we receive and making a decision about what to do. Knowing that Our Lord is a Good Shepherd can give us the confidence we need to trust him when the decisions we have to make are tough.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, you know me and you love me. Give me the grace to turn to you rather than relying too heavily on human support. Grant me wisdom and spiritual discernment. Help me to discover the path that you desire me to take and give me the courage to do so, knowing that you are all good and desire only my happiness.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray about advice I have received before making my final decision about what to do.
For Further Reflection: “Do not go outside yourself, but enter into yourself, for truth dwells in the interior self.” – St. Augustine
Written by Renee Pomarico, CRC