Living and Acting Appraisingly

Good Wednesday morning. Today’s reflection begins a consideration on the question of how to live discerningly, not just at critical moments of life but consistently.  ~ John

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“To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God,
because for this purpose I have been sent.”

-Luke 4:43

How does Jesus know that he has to leave this place where he and his work are being so fully and gratefully received and move on “to the other towns”? He says it is because his mission compels him: “. . . for this purpose I have been sent.” But the question remains: How does he know this is what his mission demands? The practice of appraisal or discernment is at the heart of the life of discipleship. At this moment, in these circumstances, how am I, how are we being called to love and to serve God? Is it by staying put or by moving on? Is it at work or at rest?

Is it to stay with or to retreat and leave alone?

In today’s first reading from 1 Corinthians, we get insight into what makes appraisal of God’s will so difficult for us. Our jealousy, our rivalry, our need for recognition and approval are all manifestations that we remain “infants in Christ.” We do not, as yet, have “the mind of Christ.” The great obstacle to knowing, moment by moment, the purpose for which we have been sent is the compulsion we are always experiencing to “make something of ourselves,” to make ourselves worthwhile, appreciated, and deserving of being. Thus, our first pre-reflective thoughts are defensive rather than the result of the purpose or mission that constitutes our spiritual identity. We want to feel valuable and significant. But, the Christ form that we are is at each moment is a summons to respond, as Adrian van Kaam says, “a task, an assignment, a mysterious call.”

So the primary question for us is not “How am I doing?” or “How have I done?” but rather “What is being asked of me?” This change of perspective from the introspective to the transcendent and meditative mode of thinking can begin to diminish the ever present and debilitating performance anxiety that constantly besets us. To be in love with God and God’s service means to give ourselves as best we can to the need and the task before us, and to remember that the results are not our business.

At whatever our age or state of health, the question that expresses the mind of Christ in us is “What can I or we give to the world at this moment that is uniquely mine/ours to give.” Or, to paraphrase today’s gospel, “What is my or our true purpose at this moment of my/our life?” Mission is a concrete response to the world’s need as it presents itself to me or us at this moment, a response whose demands of us will always correspond to our current strengths and limits: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is the call to love as we can in the situation before us and not to dissipate our energies trying to do what isn’t ours to do.

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One Comment

  1. Eileen young says:

    What is mine to do? If by tring out different possibilities we pay attention to the results …the fruits of our actions, it sometimes becomes apparent that the fit is a force no matter had badly we want the call to be there for us…but other times things just fall into place as if to show us how badly things may have gone if we had taken another path. I don’t think it is a “magic blessing”. The “knowing” May itself be the fruit of “paying attention” as a prayer practice.

    But what is mine to do is not a once and forever assignment. It may change unexpectedly and if we can’t find our way back to it, even if we loved it, we have to form another calling to love.

    Sometimes what we are called to is to just wait.

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