Which of the two did His Father’s will? One son responded with defiance, but later changed his mind. The other son told the father what he wanted to hear, but then was deceitful.
The heart of the deceitful son was disordered. He allowed the ideas of what he wanted to desensitize him from the needs of others. The other son, who initially refused, allowed himself to have a change of heart.
As we explore the process by which this son changed his mind, we can learn the process of discerning God’s will for us. When it comes to choosing a career, spouse or any important decision, God has much to say to us. Our God loves us so much that He wants to be a part of our decision making process.
We call this kind of prayer, “discernment.” In order for our prayer to be authentic discernment, we must be free from the many ideas influencing our choices. We must be able to look at every side of the issue and hold them up to God.
In discernment we must always begin with the data. We must judge the unknown with the known; the uncertain with the certain. Then, let our hearts educate our minds. This creates an interior tension which is healthy. One person describes it this way, “Let your heart be like bleeding heart liberals, but let your minds be like stuck in the mud conservatives.” If the desire of our heart is to do the Father’s will, then, we will begin to sift through the ideas and come to the truth.
There are at least seven signs that should line up. Scripture, Church Teaching, Human Reason, our Conscience (this is our innate sense of right and wrong), our individual personal desires or instincts, and finally, prayer. We can test our choices by holding them up before those signs. If any of those signs do not correspond, our choice is not in alliance with God’s Will.
Finally, as we set upon our choices, God will give us experiences that confirm His Will or tell us that we are mistaken. First, look for the fruits of the Holy Spirit, especially love, joy and peace. If we feel anxious, worried or angry, we are not in line with God’s will. The process of discernment is a part of God’s will for us. Even though we may be facing some difficult choices, discernment is a loving, joyful and peaceful experience because our goal is to know and accomplish the Father’s Will.
In the Gospel Parable, one of the sons was closed to any vision of life other than his own. The “Good Son” was the one who allowed the light of grace to work in his life. Today, Jesus invites us to be like the good son: people whose hearts are open to the voice of God.