May 15, 2020frjohnma


“Everything in discernment of spirits is directed toward action: toward firmly accepting what is of God and equally firmly rejecting what is not.”
― Timothy M. Gallagher

Rev. Fr. John-Mary Benedict Ntol Atep

Discernment of the spirits is the ability to know the movements of God or evil spirits, or our feelings in questions of life that borders on daily needs, vocations, decision-making and listening to the will of God. The key question it seeks to answer is: “Do I want only what God wants?” God communicates directly with us through our thoughts, feelings and desires says St. Ignatius of Loyola. However, there is no gainsaying that the Christian life is a warfare and such understanding is forcefully buttressed by our spiritual mentor St. Paul: “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).  The challenge about the foregoing pauline expression is that sometimes we may interpret the verse to mean we have no responsibility for the choices we make in life because we “struggle … not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers” or forces of this world that are beyond us. From this mentality, we can grow up in and with fear, blame game system, refusal to take responsibility for our lives, anxiety, superstition, obsessions and affinity to witchcraft and satanism, suspicion of people due to lack of trust, and ultimately a constant feeling of lovelessness. Holy Spirit of God renew us!

In our preceding prayer reflections, we have identified the fact that there is the Holy Spirit who by His will and personality is always ready to anoint and inspire us to do great works or undertake lofty actions. However, there are our human wills and the evil spirits that wrestle with the genuine Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit of God, anoints and inspires us through His promptings that urges us to do good and avoid evil, to decide wisely for the glory of God and to know the movements of the spirits in our lives. From the sacred sciences, we have other agents that could move us: ourselves, the world, the good angels, and the demons. St. John says: “Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). The gift to discern is from the Holy Spirit and we need to consciously discover it, develop it and use it daily by listening to the promptings and voice of the Holy Spirit.

Discernment has two levels: On the spot discernment and long term discernment. On the spot discernment works through the principle/rule that says go for the promptings that lead to greater love of God and neighbour while long term discernment usually needs the services of a spiritual director.

Reflective questions

  1. What is your notion on the gift of the discernment of the spirits?
  2. You and I have thoughts, feelings and desires running through us frequently for our personal health, marriages, families, work, sexual needs, breakthroughs and so on. Sometimes we think that doing God’s will, will limit us. What is the place of the will of God in your spiritual life?
  3. The Holy Spirit assists us in the discernment of the Spirits. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in your daily discernment processes?
  4. How does the Divine Love of God speak to you through your daily discernment processes?
  5. The Holy Spirit, if daily acknowledged and revered, assists us in our discernment processes according to our levels in the spiritual life. What is your level in the spiritual life with reference to our previous reflections?

Texts: Deut. 13:1-5, 1Cor. 12:10 and Heb. 5:13-14


Comments (17)

  • Louis Mathias

    May 15, 2020 at 4:46 pm

    Discernment of Spirit is necessary for us in order to do God’s will through which we can find true Satisfaction. May God bless us with the right sense of discernment through Christ Our Lord Amen 🙏. Great thought Fr 👍

    1. frjohnma

      May 16, 2020 at 9:32 am

      Spiritual Director of souls thanks for your beautiful words and prayer.

  • AndyMarie

    May 15, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    The issue of discernment is what I believe has caused serious concern in churches today. Being able to differentiate reality from non reality is what we are called to focus on through the Holy Spirit. In this jet age nobody wants to seek for proper discernment before venturing into any project. We sometimes prefers to do our own will instead of the will of God.
    The so much proliferation of churches in the world, I believe is as a result of false discernment. We now believe in what would please us not what will please God and our neighbours.
    From your last paragraph, it becomes so clear from the long term discernment that when we are in doubt about God’s will for us there is need to also visit a spiritual director for proper guidance.
    Thanks alot padre as we continue to acquire and grow in the knowledge of the Holy Spirit.

    1. Juliana-Mary Ukeje

      May 15, 2020 at 6:17 pm

      Thank you very much Father for this reflection on such a very challenging aspect of our relationship with the Holy Spirit. As you rightly pointed out, one of the reasons for this difficulty is the competing attention from our other associates namely; ourselves, the world and the evil one. However, like you and Timothy Gallagher have indicated, if we truly want what God wants and we are ready to firmly accept it despite the associated discomfort, we will find it easier to make the required right decision. To this end, we must seek the necessary aid, notably advice from spiritual directors like you already stated. Such efforts show how much we lovingly want to please God and how much we detest offending Him. May the Holy Spirit continue to daily increase this love in us.

      1. frjohnma

        May 16, 2020 at 9:27 am

        Your are privileged to know your patron saint, St. Julian and you are reflecting the attributes of her life. Thanks for sharing with us

    2. frjohnma

      May 16, 2020 at 9:31 am

      I sincerely appreciate your practical tips and illustrations. I pray we listen and integrate them into our lives. Amen

  • Eby

    May 15, 2020 at 5:14 pm

    Thanks Fr. We need Spirit of discernment in whatever we’re doing so as not to go the wrong way. In it has to do with you listening to that inner voice of God in you. May the Lord bless His words in our hearts +.

    1. frjohnma

      May 16, 2020 at 9:30 am

      Listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit is very important in our spiritual life and we pray for more gifts of discernment of the spirits. Amen.

  • Elochi Agatha

    May 15, 2020 at 5:32 pm

    Good spiritual doctrine on the Holy Spirit

    1. frjohnma

      May 16, 2020 at 9:29 am

      Thanks a million times

  • Pauline Otu

    May 15, 2020 at 5:54 pm

    Amen, thank you Father for this educative piece on discernment of the spirits. God bless you always amen. Stay safe

    1. frjohnma

      May 16, 2020 at 9:28 am

      Thanks be to God and we prayer for more discernment in our spiritual life. Amen

  • Stanley-Mary Osegbo

    May 15, 2020 at 7:08 pm

    Thanks so much Fr. for this all important topic! The shortest way to holiness is the ability to discern and to be faithful to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

    1. frjohnma

      May 16, 2020 at 9:25 am

      Good and insightful Man! Truth told, we need the gift of discernment of the spirits.

  • Clifford Yaor

    May 15, 2020 at 10:01 pm

    Just to say thank you for this reflection. We Catholics say this prayer “Jesus I love you and all I have is yours, yours I am and yours I want to be, do with me whatever you will.” Very Rev Fr. Peter Schineller, SJ has challenged us for saying the prayer without meaning what we say or just for the sack of saying it. We or I do not allow God to prompt us, we say the prayer above and do something else. I pray that the Spirit of God may take firm root in our hearts to enable us make the right decisions in life. Amen

    1. frjohnma

      May 16, 2020 at 9:24 am

      Awesome comment and prayer. Thanks Mr. Clifford!

  • Kenneth Mary

    May 16, 2020 at 8:36 pm

    Thank you Fr ,the subject is timely… To discern is a Free gift of God for those who sincerely seek and wait unto God for it. A heart that is sincerely looking for Him will never go a stray. Thanks

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