Why “discern” before any choice

This or that? Red or black? One or the other? Choosing is never easy, we all know it. It is not easy to the point that we could say that in the end the only real freedom we have is to “think about making a choice”; because at the same moment in which we pass from thought to action, all those conditions – family, environmental, social … – in which our life is caged are triggered. We don’t even think about it, but that’s what happens to us every day, without our being aware of it. Yet life is made up of choices that should be free from any conditioning, as far as possible. But is it possible? Or is our life nothing more than a continuous, eternal illusion of freedom? These are questions that philosophy has always asked itself, because choosing is not just deciding between sea and mountains, this or that shirt. Choosing involves the very essence of living: good-evil, right-wrong, true-false.
One of the most recurrent – and difficult – words of the “ecclesialese” (and not only) that we do not understand is “discernment”. What does it mean what we often hear, that we are “called to make discernment”? It is no coincidence that Pope Francis has decided to dedicate a new cycle of catechesis to this theme, which began with the general audience on the last day of August. Because “discerning is an important act that concerns everyone, because choices are an essential part of life. Discern the choices. You choose a food, a dress, a course of study, a job, a relationship. In all this, a life plan is made concrete, and our relationship with God is also made concrete ”. In the Gospel, Jesus gives several examples of choices: the fishermen who must choose the good fish from the bad ones, the merchant who knows how to find the most beautiful in a pile of pearls, or the farmer who finds a treasure in his field.
In this way, Bergoglio added, «discernment is presented as an exercise of intelligence, and also of skill, and also of will, to seize the right moment: these are the conditions for making a good choice … And there is it is also a cost required for discernment to become operational … The fisherman takes into account the fatigue, the long nights spent at sea, and then the fact of discarding part of the catch, accepting a loss of profit for the good of those who which it is intended for. The pearl merchant does not hesitate to spend everything to buy that pearl; and so does the man who has stumbled upon a treasure. Unexpected, unplanned situations, where it is essential to recognize the importance and urgency of a decision to be taken. The decisions must be made by everyone; there is no one who takes them for us. At a certain point the adults, free, can ask for advice, think, but the decision is their own; one cannot say: “I lost this, because my husband decided, my wife decided, my brother decided”: no! You must decide, each of us must decide, and for this reason it is important to know how to discern: to decide well it is necessary to know how to discern ”.
The images of the farmer, the fisherman and the merchant, Francis added, “are examples of what happens in the Kingdom of Heaven, a Kingdom that manifests itself in the ordinary actions of life, which require taking a stand: it is no coincidence that it is the first dialogue between God and man … the Lord gives the mission, you must do this and this; and man every step he takes must discern which decision to make. Discernment is that reflection of the mind, of the heart that we must do before making a decision ».


© All rights reserved

Why “discern” before any choice