The gift of discernment, also known as the gift of discernment of spirits, is a grace that comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit in us, through our unity with Him and our intimacy with Him in prayer. It is a spiritual gift that allows us to discern, to examine in other people and in the community the presence and will of God and the nature of good and evil.
This gift allows us to identify which spirit is driving or influencing an action, a situation, a desire, a decision to make, something we are told or offered. Like every spiritual gift, it is in interaction with other charisms and is necessary for our daily life, our prayer life, and our apostolate.
In Gen 3: 1-7, Eve did not realize that the voice she heard came from the evil one, because she did not stop to discern who spoke to her, and whether it was from God; deluded by Satan, she eventually committed the original sin of all mankind. God respects our freedom: He respected Eve’s freedom to disobey and to sin. It must have been a great pain for God to watch Eve being deceived.
Three Great Enemies of the Soul
St. John of the Cross teaches us that our souls have three great enemies: the world, the devil, and our flesh; enemies that make war and hinder the path our souls desire to walk to God. It is therefore necessary to exercise the gift of discernment of spirits, one of the channels God uses to help us overcome these great enemies, who try to confuse us in seeking to know and live the will of God.
We must pray and have a life of constant praise and unity with God’s Word and the sacraments of the Church. In this way we become deeply united with and open to the motions of the Spirit so that we will not be deceived. Jesus teaches us: “Watch and pray, that ye fall not into temptation.”
This alertness, trusting in God’s mercy, comes to us from constant praise, daily prayer, study of God’s Word, obedience to the Church, adherence to the sacraments, and friendship with Our Lady. If we are always alert then we will know if something comes from the will of God, the devil or our flesh.
Gift of Discernment of Spirits in the New Testament
– Mt 16.16 – “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Jesus glorified the Father, because He discerned that who had revealed to Peter that He was, was the Father. Jesus concluded that the answer had not come from Peter’s humanity, because “without grace, no one could say that He was the Messiah.
– Mt 16:22 – “God forbid, Lord! This will not happen to you.” The lack of faith, the desire to please, the fear, thrust Satan into Peter’s thinking and feeling. Jesus discerned that what Peter said came from the evil one.
– Luke 4: 1-13 – Jesus discerned that the suggestions that came to him in the temptation of the desert came not from God, but from the evil one to spoil the Father’s plan.
The Holy Spirit anoints the baptized with the same spiritual anointing as Jesus
Baptism regenerates us in the life ot the Son of God; unites us to Christ and to his Body, the Church; and anoints us in the Holy Spirit, making us spiritual temples (Christifideles Laici 10). “It was in one Spirit that we were all baptized to form one body” (1 Cor 12:13). Therefore, all the baptized live the “mysterious unity with Jesus among themselves” (cf. Jn 17:21), we are all branches of one vine, Jesus Christ.
In addition to enjoying the baptism of unity with Christ and the brethren, we become “living stones” built upon Christ, the “cornerstone,” designed to build a spiritual edifice (I Pet 2: 4ff). The Holy Spirit then anoints the baptized and with this spiritual anointing it is possible to repeat and adopt the words of Jesus:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Lk 4: 18-19).
By regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the baptized are consecrated into a spiritual house (Christifideles Laici 13s). This assures us that the baptized are configured in Jesus Christ (Phil 3:21) in a total manner, including in all their activities (see Rom 12: 1s). Jesus himself said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me shall do the works that I do, and do greater things than these: for I go unto the Father” (Jn 14:12).
Our collaboration is essential
The charisms of the Spirit, conferred on all in Baptism and intensified in Confirmation, are also called the gifts of the Holy Spirit. With these gifts He enables us to serve the Church of Christ through our brothers. The charisms are therefore powerful gifts for the service of the Christian community.
But there are conditions for receiving and persevering in the charismatic life: simplicity and purity of heart; assiduity of meditation on the Word of God; life of prayer; desire to serve brothers like Jesus (Lk 22:27); perseverance in receiving spiritual gifts (always open to being channels of action and to the power of the Spirit).
Our collaboration is essential. God doesn’t want us to be robots that act independently, as mechanical beings. Respect our freedom and our consent. If we believe, we say yes to what the Lord wants to accomplish in us. Mary Most Holy is the model of total openness: “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Lk 1:38).
Translation: Jhoanna Climacosa
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