Discernment isn’t just for catechumens. It’s for all the faithful to do each day. And it’s not about what we know in our head. It’s about what we know in our heart. This is because discernment isn’t really about having proof, but having faith that God is with us. This is what we learn from the intimate relationship between God and Moses, which we read about in Exodus.
After years of wandering and a people growing restless, Moses begins to doubt that he is leading the Israelites on the right path to the Promised Land. He needs assurance that the next step he’s taking is the right one. He needs to see God’s presence right by his side.
“For how can it be known that we, your people and I, have found favor with you, except by your going with us? Then we, your people and I, will be singled out from every other people on the earth.”
The LORD said to Moses, “This request, too, which you have just made, I will carry out, because you have found favor with me and you are my intimate friend.”
Then Moses said, “Do let me see your glory!”
He answered, “I will make all my beauty pass before you, and in your presence I will pronounce my name, ‘ LORD ‘; I who show favors to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will. But my face you cannot see, for no man sees me and still lives. Here,” continued the LORD, “is a place near me where you shall station yourself on the rock. When my glory passes I will set you in the hollow of the rock and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand, so that you may see my back; but my face is not to be seen.” (Ex 33:16-23)
Moses can’t see God’s face and live. But he can see God’s back! (The Hebrew translation is even more intimate when it says that Moses sees God’s backside!)
We know God is with us because we have seen where God has been. To know where we need to go in our path of faith, we have to look backwards to see where we have come from. Thus the first step in discerning God’s presence is mystagogical.
As we move from the old year into the new, you might consider making another new year’s resolution to do more looking backwards on a regular basis. This isn’t the same kind of looking back as we do in evaluations or critique of an event. Rather, it’s an intimate peek into God’s beauty that gives us strength to take our next steps.
Make a promise to find some silent time each day to do this looking backwards. Maybe it’s when you’re laying in bed before going to sleep or on your drive home after work. Turn off the radio and the TV, shut down the computer, and put away your phone—even if only for a few minutes—and ask yourself some mystagogical questions:
- What was the most memorable event I experienced today?
- Who did I meet?
- Did I keep my promises to myself and to others?
- Did I make a difference in another person’s life?
- Did someone move me to see the world in a new way?
- Where did I see God?
Ask the Holy Spirit to bless the day you have witnessed and to strengthen your faith for the next day. Then give thanks for having seen God’s glory.