Even the spiritual life “has its ‘passwords’: there are words that touch the heart because they refer to what we are most sensitive to”. The Pope underlined this at today’s general audience, Wednesday 5 October, inviting the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square and those who listened to him through the media to recognize “these key words” to make a “good discernment” – a theme to which dedicated the cycle of catechesis that began last August 31 – and “grow in freedom”.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
We continue to deal with the subject of discernment. Last time we considered prayer as its indispensable element, understood as familiarity and confidence with God. Prayer, not like parrots, but as familiarity and confidence with God; prayer of the children to the Father; prayer with an open heart. We saw this in the last Catechesis. Today, in an almost complementary way, I would like to emphasize that good discernment also requires the self-knowledge. Know yourself. And this is not easy. In fact, discernment involves our human faculties: memory, intellect, will, affections. Often we don’t know how to discern because we don’t know ourselves well enough, and so we don’t know what we really want. You have heard many times: “But that person, why doesn’t he fix his life? He never knew what he wants … “. Without reaching that extreme, but it also happens to us that we don’t know what we want, we don’t know each other well.
At the basis of spiritual doubts and vocational crises there is often an insufficient dialogue between religious life and ours human, cognitive and affective dimensions. An author of spirituality noted how many difficulties on the subject of discernment refer to problems of another kind, which must be recognized and explored. This author writes: «I have come to the conviction that the greatest obstacle to true discernment (and to true growth in prayer) is not the intangible nature of God, but the fact that we do not know ourselves sufficiently, and we do not want not even knowing ourselves as we really are. Almost all of us hide behind a mask, not only in front of others, but also when we look in the mirror “( Th. Green , The wheat and the weeds, Rome, 1992, 25). We all have the temptation to be masked even in front of ourselves.
The forgetfulness of God’s presence in our life goes hand in hand with ignorance about ourselves – ignoring God and ignoring us – ignorance about the characteristics of our personality and our deepest desires.
Knowing yourself is not difficult, but it is tiring: it implies a patient inner digging work. It requires the ability to stop, to “turn off the autopilot”, to gain awareness on our way of doing things, on the feelings that inhabit us, on the recurring thoughts that condition us, and often without our knowledge. It also requires distinguishing between emotions and spiritual faculties. “I feel” is not the same as “I am convinced”; “I feel like” is not the same as “I want”. Thus we come to recognize that the gaze we have on ourselves and on reality is sometimes a little distorted. Noticing this is a grace! In fact, many times it can happen that erroneous beliefs about reality, based on past experiences, strongly influence us, limiting our freedom to play with them for what really matters in our life.
Living in the age of computing, we know how important it is to know password to be able to enter programs where the most personal and valuable information is found. But even the spiritual life has its “password”: There are words that touch the heart because they refer to what we are most sensitive to. The tempter, that is, the devil, knows these key words well, and it is important that we know them too, so as not to find ourselves where we would not like to. Temptation does not necessarily suggest bad things, but often disordered things, presented with excessive importance. In this way it hypnotizes us with the attraction that these things arouse in us, beautiful but illusory things, which cannot keep what they promise, and thus leave us in the end with a sense of emptiness and sadness. That sense of emptiness and sadness is a sign that we have taken a path that was not right, that has disoriented us. They can be, for example, the educational qualification, career, relationships, all things in themselves commendable, but towards which, if we are not free, we risk having unreal expectations, such as the confirmation of our worth. For example, when you think about a study you are doing, do you think it only to promote yourself, for your own interest, or even to serve the community? There, you can see what the intentionality of each of us is. From this misunderstanding often derives the greatest sufferings, because none of those things can be the guarantee of our dignity.
For this, dear brothers and sisters, it is important to know each other, to know the password of our heart, what we are most sensitive to, to protect us from those who come up with persuasive words to manipulate us, but also to recognize what is really important to us, distinguishing it from the fashions of the moment or from flashy and superficial slogans. Many times what is said in a program on television, in some advertising that is done, touches our heart and makes us go there without freedom. Be careful of that: am I free or do I let myself go to the feelings of the moment, or to the provocations of the moment?
An aid in this is theexamination of conscience, but I’m not talking about the examination of conscience that we all do when we go to confession, no. This is: “But I have sinned about this, that …”. No. General examination of conscience of the day: what happened in my heart on this day? “Many things have happened …”. Which? Because? What traces have they left in their hearts? Doing the examination of conscience, that is the good habit of calmly re-reading what happens in our day, learning to notice in the evaluations and choices what we give most importance, what we are looking for and why, and what we have found in the end. Especially by learning to recognize what satisfies my heart. Because only the Lord can give us confirmation of what we are worth. He tells us this every day from the cross: he died for us, to show us how precious we are in his eyes. There is no obstacle or failure that can prevent his tender embrace. The examination of conscience helps a lot, because in this way we see that our heart is not a road where everything passes and we do not know. No. See: what happened today? What happened? What made me react? What made me sad? What made me joyful? What was bad and if I hurt others. It is about seeing the path of feelings, attractions in my heart during the day. Don’t forget! The other day we talked about prayer; today we talk about self-knowledge.
Prayer and self-knowledge allow you to grow in freedom. This is to grow in freedom! They are basic elements of Christian existence, precious elements for finding one’s place in life. Thank you.