In the Gospel reading today from Matthew 4, we read about the early part of Jesus’ public ministry. He went about preaching, teaching and healing. Great crowds came from the surrounding areas to follow Him. Our first reading today is from 1 John.
St. John today talks about discernement of spirits. “Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God.” This can sometimes seem like a very difficult thing. Perhaps you have experienced this before. I know it happens to me often. You get a feeling, a hunch, a movement in your heart, a stirring in your soul. But you’re not really sure if it’s God or you or Satan or something or someone or…whatever! So how do you tell? How do you, as St. John says, “test the spirits?” Well, St. John speaks to the topic a bit. But let me share a brief thought of mine on it.
If this move of the spirit tells you to do something dishonest, unkind, untoward or anything that basically seems negative or goes against what you know Jesus would tell you, then it is not of God. Even if the end may be something that seems good, the end doesn’t necessarily justify the means. If it is something that you are uncomfortable with from a moral perspective, chances are that it is not from God. Please don’t misunderstand – genuine moves of the Spirit will very often make us uncomfortable, but the Spirit of God would never ask us to do anything immoral. Unfortunately, moral relativism is causing great problems in this area these days. The first step in “testing the spirits” is prayer. Ask God fervently for a sign, a sense of peace, an affirmation. The next step is properly forming our conscience. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a great section on conscience (Paragraphs 1776-1802.) CCC Paragraph 1785 sums it up well – We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church. You may stumble and fall on occasion but in the end, God will reveal Himself.
Father, show us Your will. Help us to be people of prayer and discernment, testing the spirits, so that the Holy Spirit will be the only one we hear and obey. Amen.