In the first reading today, Ahaz says that he will not test the Lord, he will not ask for a sign. But the Lord insists on sending a sign, specifically Jesus Christ, Emmanuel. Jesus is the definitive sign that God has sent, and we shouldn’t go chasing after signs other than Him. That’s why Jesus in the Gospels calls the generation “evil” because “it seeks a sign”.
Often times I will have people approach me as a priest and talk about how they are waiting on a sign or praying for a sign to know what God wants them to do. But in the first reading, God is saying that he’s already sent us a sign: His Son.
And so, if we want to know God’s will, we shouldn’t look for a sign, but rather we can know it in three simple ways:
First, we know God never wants us to sin, so if it’s a sin, God doesn’t want us to do it!
Second, by looking at our state in life. The situation that God has placed us in here and now gives us a number of obligations or duties. If God put us in this situation, then He wants us to do the things that are required by this situation. This should fill up most of the decisions that you have to make throughout the day.
Lastly, there are certain decisions that we have to make that aren’t clarified by the first two methods. To discern those situations well, there are several techniques that you can use. The one I want to explain today begins by placing yourself close to God – go to confession, receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and there when you are filled with our Lord’s grace, align yourself with God’s call to love – pray “Lord, I want to love you; Lord, I want to love my neighbor; Lord, I want to love you; Lord, I want to love my neighbor.” Keep repeating that for several minutes. Make that the greatest desire of your heart. Then, as you repeat those phrases, put in the decision that you are discerning: “Lord I want to love you; Lord, I want to love my neighbor; Lord, I want to accept this job offer, enter the seminary, propose to Ann, etc.”. Keep repeating it. If there is a peace and a sense of fittingness; that’s a good sign that it’s time to start moving in that direction. If there is a discord, then perhaps that is not what God is calling you to.
That’s all I have space for today, for more tips on discernment – specifically discerning a vocation – check out my new book, Discernment Do’s and Don’ts: A Practical Guide to Vocational Discernment.
Fr. George Elliott is a pastor and college chaplain in the Diocese of Tyler, TX. He is also President of Catholic CAST Media and author of Discernment Do’s and Don’ts: A Practical Guide to Vocational Discernment.
“The situation that God has placed us in here and now gives us a number of obligations or duties. If God put us in this situation, then He wants us to do the things that are required by this situation.”
That’s a humbling, grounding statement. How often do we wish for a sign for something different because we want to avoid where we are?
In other words, take your best guess.