Today is the Feast of the Annunciation and it has brought me back to some retreat experiences last November, particularly the painting that served as a focus of many reflections during those precious days. Lately I’ve been blessed to accompany a number of young adults in the process of discernment. Several are discerning their vocation. Others are facing significant decisions about careers, transitions, relationships. They all want to make those choices from a heart open to God’s will.
I’ve come to realize that discernment is a way of life. Starting from the belief that God desires the very best for each of us and doesn’t try to trick us or keep us guessing what God’s will might be, I have found that the basic principles that St. Ignatius laid out really do apply! Whatever the immediate focus of discernment might be, that “decision” is not the goal. The goal is to grow in my relationship with God. So in every decision the desire is to want and choose what will lead to a deepening of my life in God.
Today is the day that the Daughters of Charity make their annual renewal of vows. What a beautiful feast to choose! We remember Mary’s openness to God’s request, even as she didn’t have much clarity about how all this could be. And that is a good thing to remember when we’re in a process of discernment: We do the best we can to understand what God is asking of us, to make a good choice in the light of the information we have, but we can give our “Yes” even without knowing all the details or even being certain. And as the Daughters renew their vows on this feast each year, we say “Yes” again and again in our lives, never from exactly the same place of self-understanding or experience.
Three years ago around this time I was preparing to begin chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. I received many graces through an experience that could have been all darkness, confusion and loss. One of the images I found helpful during the chemo treatments was to imagine myself flooded with healing light- like the light in this image of the Annunciation. I continue to be amazed at what God has done in me- and to wonder at what might be next in God’s wonder-full love.