Discerning God’s will: Preparation and prayer

Think back on some of the most important decisions many of us have to make in our lives: which career path to choose and to pursue, whether to marry, enter seminary or religious life, when to start a family, where to purchase a home. Did any of those decisions require your drawing straws or throwing darts or some other act of chance? Of course not (as least I hope not!). However in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles just proclaimed in our hearing, we hear that in order to replace Judas, the Apostles drew lots to choose between the two candidates, Joseph and Matthias. The lot fell to Matthias, who "was counted with the Eleven Apostles," thus becoming the twelfth.

So, this decision was not left up to chance. Instead, the Apostles were leaving it up to the Holy Spirit. Yet even before that, they were preparing to receive His decision. In doing this they were following the example that Jesus had given them when He chose His Twelve Apostles. We recall that Jesus had many disciples, and after being apart from them in prayer, He returned to name the twelve men that the Father had designated to be His Apostles. We learn that Apostles were not chosen by chance, but by the will of God the Father. So, they received the vocation, the call, to be Apostles. Turning back to the scene in the Upper Room, first the assembly chose Matthias and Joseph as the two best candidates from the group of disciples who had been with Jesus from the beginning. These were two men intimately familiar with Jesus and his teaching, and "a witness to his resurrection" and, therefore, uniquely qualified as to be the twelfth apostle.

Like Jesus, the Apostles brought to prayer these disciples, seeking the help of the Holy Spirit as they discerned. They prayed, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place" (cf. Acts 1:24-25). God chose Saint Matthias.

In their decision-making process, these members of the Early Church offer us the model of how we are called to make the momentous decisions in our lives: with preparation and prayer. Preparation means that we cannot leave everything completely up to God. Rather, God gives each of us gifts and talents, which need to be acknowledged and used as we seek to build up the Church and our community. Preparation also includes striving to live the Commandments of God, the laws and directives by which to guide our lives in order to know what is good, and what must be avoided. Like anything in life, if we want to be "the best," we must practice and discipline our lives; so too, in faith, we must practice the good and live moral lives. We cannot sit passively by, praying that God will handle all things, or be paralyzed in the decision-making process because we are afraid to make a choice. In the end, both prayer and our preparation assist us to determine God's will in our lives.

It is likely that we do make prayer a part of the big decisions in life. Like the Apostles, we want God to be a part of the important choices we make. However, we are at our best when we desire to involve God in more of our daily decisions by being more aware of His presence in our lives. When we are at home, when we are at work, when we are out in the community running errands or when we are recreating with our families, we are called to have an awareness of God and to seek His guidance. This may seem unnecessary or maybe even a bit overly pious, but how much different would our lives be if we allowed God to be a part of how we organized our day, how we spent our free time, with whom we chose to interact?

As men and women working to promote and protect the dignity of all human life, we know that we need much insight and strength as we face this culture, which is so far removed from discerning and doing the will of God. Tomorrow, we celebrate the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Spirit who unites us to God by making Him present within each one of us who is baptized and living in communion with the Church. Let us pray that we may be intimately united to God through the grace of Jesus Christ, the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and our active participation in discerning and doing the will of God in our lives. After all, Jesus tells us in today's gospel passage: "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain … ."

The Fruit that will remain in our efforts to protect, defend, and develop life is the victory of life within a new civilization of life and love.

Therefore, our active preparation united to fervent prayer to the Holy Spirit will assist us in discerning the Father's Will for us, yes within the pro-life initiative but also in all the stages and circumstances of living as Christ's disciples. Remember: He prepared and chose Matthias. His pattern never changes! He prepares and chooses us - each one, for His glory and the building up of His Church.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016