Jesus said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say immediately that it is going to rain — and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot — and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time? Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?" (Luke 12:54-57)
Every day, we are called to make important decisions — some are small and some are quite important. No matter how big or small a decision, we as Catholic men are called to make wise and Godly choices. Some experts tell us we make as many as two hundred conscious decisions every day. Although many of these are small, others are very big and carry profound consequences. Wouldn't it be great if we could make the right decision all the time? In a sense, Jesus' words on discerning the signs of the times stand behind this concern. If we could only know what God wants, we would find it a lot easier to decide!
God's will isn't meant to be mysterious and unapproachable. In fact, Scripture is filled with the conviction that it really is possible to understand spiritual realities. In his book, What Does God Want? Fr. Michael Scanlan proposes five basic questions to ask when facing an important decision.
First: Does it conform to God's law as revealed through Scripture, tradition and the teaching of the church? If it doesn't, we simply cannot do it.
Second: Does it foster personal conversion and growth in holiness? As we make decisions that deepen our union with God, the life of Christ will become more evident in our own lives.
Third: Is it consistent? Many of our decisions will flow directly from previous decisions — providing, of course, that our previous decisions bore good fruit! God may give us new challenges and take us in new directions, but he tends to reveal them in a manner consistent with how he has spoken to us in the past.
Fourth: What confirms it? After we make a decision, God usually sends some confirmation, maybe by opening doors that were once closed, revealing needed resources, or through affirming words spoken by a trusted friend. Of course, there are times when we just have to decide on something and then examine its fruit. Experience isn't the best teacher; evaluated experience is!
Fifth: What does your heart say? We should cautiously consider the difference between peace of the heart and the conclusion of the mind. The head may say yes, but until our heart is convinced, we may experience "decision gridlock." This doesn't mean that we will like everything God asks us to do. Even if we don't, deep down we will want to do it.
God is not playing hide-and-seek. When we seek his help in making key decisions, he will guide us.
Father, I trust in your plan for my life. I know that you want what is best for me. Help me, Father, in all the challenging decisions I face. I especially ask for gifts of wisdom and discernment. I want to make wise and Godly decisions that are pleasing to you.
Many thanks to The Word Among Us for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. The first question Fr. Michael Scanlan proposes to ask when facing an important decision is, “Does it conform to God’s law as revealed through Scripture, tradition and the teaching of the church?” We have all heard of the expression, “Cafeteria Catholics,” i.e., those who pick and choose the Catholic teachings they will obey. Why is this a dangerous approach to making important decisions?
2. The second question is “Does it foster personal conversion and growth in holiness?” Although not all decisions have a spiritual dimension, why is this question still an important one to ask?
3. The third question is “Is it consistent?” Although it is important at times to “think outside the box” when making decisions, why can making an important decision that is inconsistent with past decisions be dangerous?
4. The fourth question is “What confirms it?” How important is this question? Share some examples of important decisions you made that were confirmed and share the fruit of your decisions.
5. The fifth question is “What does your heart say?” Although we can’t always be totally guided by our hearts, why is an inner peace an important element of decision making?
6. Experiment with the approach to making decisions proposed in this article. If you are in a men’s group, share the fruit of this approach in future men’s meetings.