“Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first” (Mt 21-31).
The first son followed his father’s request to go out into the vineyard and work after having first said no. Jesus does not elaborate on why the son denied the request but certainly emphasizes that what was important was that the son, in the end, did follow through on his father’s will. Another point that is clear in the parable is that both sons heard clearly the command of the Father. Would that we could hear the direction of God so clearly! God is family, our Father in heaven, and he has also invited us to work in his vineyard.
The challenge is discernment. How are we able to know what God is calling us to do? I can look back through my life and see those spiritual stepping stones, the foundational experiences along the path on my journey thus far. Sometimes with hindsight, God’s leadings are clearer now than they were at the time. Each of us have moments of encounter in our life with God that we may or may not have recognized.
We each have different ways that help us to discern God’s will. God speaks to us through our dreams and desires. It is good to ponder them when they do arise. We also need to take time to meditate in silence, step out of our busyness to be still. As St Mother Teresa has said, “God speaks in the silence of the heart.” He also speaks through his word proclaimed at Mass, our reading the Bible, spiritual writing, on our own through personal study, and prayer.
Author, speaker, and founder of Dynamic Catholic, Matthew Kelly, suggests that reading a minimum of five to ten minutes a day will make a huge difference in our coming to know God’s will. “Our lives change when our habits change.” God speaks to us in so many ways, through music, creation, our relationships, as well as all aspects of our lives. The key is placing ourselves in a posture of a heart and mind open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. God reveals himself and his will to us through our intellect, through our senses, experiences, and through the depths of our soul.
Karl Rahner, in his Hearer of the Word, wrote: “As spirit, we stand before the living, free God, the God who speaks or the God who keeps silent” (72,73). Once we do hear his word or his silence, we need to then be willing to take the risk to act upon his will. You may be thinking right now about something that has been coming to you and wondering if it is God’s will for you. Follow through on the leading and see what happens.
Another key step is to speak to someone about your insights. Speak to those you know and trust, those with experience in the area where you may be feeling led, get information and continue your research. This is where spiritual direction can be very helpful. Continue to pray about the desire, then step out in faith. If you find you have made a mistake, you can change course, reassess, and learn from the process.
What is not helpful is indifference. We need to take the time to actively engage in discernment and once we believe God is leading, act. There is much work to be done in the vineyard of the Lord, and we have a key part to play in the kingdom. God will inspire, lead, and provide the means for us to accomplish what he has called us to. Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord, in your own unique way and expression!
Photo: Fr Ed O’Brien from CT and me during my first weekend of Masses after my ordination. Fr Ed played a key part in my journey. He led me through the RCIA program and to confirmation in my mid-twenties.