Today we celebrate the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Mother Seton was a convert, and acknowledged as the founder of the Catholic school system in America. You would do well to find out more about this amazing woman. Our first reading today is from 1 John. We’ll talk about it in a moment. In the Gospel reading from Matthew 4, we read about the early part of Jesus’ public ministry. He went about preaching, teaching and healing.
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. The first step in “testing the spirits” is prayer. Ask God fervently for a sign, a sense of peace, an affirmation. 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 discernement, testing the spirits, so that the Holy Spirit will be the only one we hear and obey. Amen.