Spiritual Discernment

According to a famous quote by Saint Augustine, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” Another famous theologian makes the same point by saying, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man that cannot be satisfied by created things."

When we fill the void deep within our hearts with the Blessed Trinity, we discover ultimate fulfillment in life. When we surrender our lives and hearts to God, we find ourselves called on a journey of growth and partnership with the Blessed Trinity through this lifetime and into eternity. The value of this relationship is described in Sacred Scripture as the treasure buried in a field from Matthew 13:44 and the pearl of great price from Matthew 13:45. When a man or woman enters into an authentic relationship with the Blessed Trinity, that person will do everything to maintain his or her relationship with Jesus, because Jesus is the ultimate Lover of our souls.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church in section 260, “The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God's creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity.” Jesus shows us how this is possible in John 14:23, by saying, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

Once a man or woman enters into an authentic relationship with the Blessed Trinity, the Lord will constantly call that person deeper into holiness and deeper into his service. A person can say "no" to God at any stage of his or her journey, but if we do, the peaceful presence of God that resides deep within our hearts will slowly disappear, leaving us empty and longing for an authentic spiritual connection. When we surrender our lives and hearts to God and continue to grow in holiness, obedience and service, God will be pleased to dwell with us, filling our hearts with his peaceful presence.

The requirements for walking in partnership with God is described in Sacred Scripture as the hard and narrow road that leads to everlasting life. When the faithful make a choice to travel the cheap and easy road of spiritual shortcuts, failing to make Jesus the Lord of our lives, we usually experience a tendency to start practicing unhealthy devotions. When the faithful try to fill the God-shaped vacuum deep within their hearts with anything other than the Blessed Trinity, the devil and his legions of fallen angels can take advantage of the situation and lead those people deeper into bondage.

The only way to break free from this bondage is a complete and total surrender of all unhealthy devotions, and to start spending the same amount of time and energy pursuing an authentic relationship with the Blessed Trinity. The process of a complete and total surrender for Catholics works the same as the detoxification process for New Age or occult practitioners. Before a New Age practitioner can become an authentic Christian, that person needs to denounce all their occult-like agreements with the devil and remove all crystals, tarot cards, magic charms, ritually charged objects and every other device they use for power and protection from their lives and hearts.

The same is true for Catholics who have spent a lifetime practicing unhealthy devotions. If a religious object is providing you with any type of power, protection, blessings, or favors from God, similar to a good-luck charm, amulet or talisman, then you will need to remove those objects from your life and heart, and offer that spiritual void deep within your heart to God. God is the only one who can offer true blessings and protection. False and deceptive forms of blessings and protection come from the devil and they will only lead a person deeper into bondage.

 

The Spiritual Discernment Test

In the event that you have been practicing unhealthy devotions, you may want to take the Spiritual Discernment Test.

1. The best way to evaluate your spiritual walk with the Blessed Trinity is to ask Jesus a few simple questions. Because an authentic relationship with the Blessed Trinity will cost a person everything, you may want to ask Jesus if you are traveling the hard and narrow road that leads to everlasting life? Or have you been practicing (and promoting) spiritual shortcuts that promise power and protection from sources other than God?

2. Another way to test yourself is to compare your life to the standards set forth in Sacred Scripture. The First Letter of John contains several passages to help us evaluate if we have an authentic relationship with Jesus as follows:

3. According to 1 John 2:5–6, "By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, 'I abide in him,' ought to walk just as he walked." Are you walking the walk like Jesus? Have you made Jesus the Lord over every aspect of your life?

4. According to 1 John 2:3–5, "By this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, 'I have come to know him,' but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection." Are you following the Lord's teachings regarding every aspect of your prayer life?

5. According to 1 John 2:15–17, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever." Do you spend more time on vacation or watching television than you do helping other people enter into an authentic relationship with Jesus?

6. According to 1 John 4:13, "By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit." Are you working in partnership with the Holy Spirit to accomplish the Father's will in your life?

7. According to 1 John 5:10 & 12, "Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life." Have you surrendered your life into the Lord's service? Have you invited the presence of Jesus to dwell in your heart?

8. According to 1 John 4:7–9, "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him." Are you living in God's love and allowing God's love to flow through you into the lives of others?

9. Another way to test yourself is to identify any spiritual forces that may be driving you for more unhealthy devotions. The Blessed Trinity will never get inside your head and demand more and more prayers. The Blessed Trinity will never violate your free will by repeating a religious chant in your thoughts. If you have a religious chant playing inside your head, demanding more and more novenas and devotions to entities other than the Blessed Trinity, it is a good indicator that you have crossed the line between healthy and unhealthy devotions. If that's the case, it's possible that you have committed the sin of idolatry and given demonic spirits access to your life.