“God invites us to evaluate and choose: He created us free and wants us to exercise our freedom,” said Pope Francis during the General Audience of August 31, during which he began a new cycle of teachings on the theme of discernment. Discernment, or knowing how to meditate in order to make a decision, is “demanding but indispensable for living” and constitutes a “challenge” for man.
“Human beings, unlike animals, can be wrong, can be unwilling to choose correctly,” explained the pontiff. “We do not find set before us, pre-packaged, the life we are to live,” he continued.
Discernment, the Pope explained, therefore requires intelligence, experience, willpower and a capacity to know joy, and therefore an emotional openness. It also requires knowing oneself and developing “a filial relationship with God.” He announced that he would develop these aspects during the next general audiences.
“God never imposes his will,” the Bishop of Rome recalled, because he “wants to be loved and not feared” and “love can only be lived in freedom.” “To learn to live one must learn to love, and for this it is necessary to discern,” he concluded, encouraging everyone to invoke the Holy Spirit “when we have choices to make.”
Discernment is one of the fundamental elements of Ignatian spirituality, of which the pope, a Jesuit, is a disciple. For St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, every human decision is an opportunity for an encounter with God. To help with discernment, the Spaniard developed the “spiritual exercises.”