Jesus presents two distinct ways of interacting with his teachings. While his apostles have eyes that see and ears that hear, others hear without understanding and look without seeing. How can we be more like Jesus’ disciples? How do we know what God is saying to us in the first place?
Saint Ignatius teaches that God speaks to us through our desires. When we discern—or reflect and pray on the events of our lives—we often discover feelings of consolation and desolation. Margaret Silf, author of The Inner Compass, writes that consolation happens “when our hearts are drawn toward God.” Desolation represents the opposite. Silf explains that consolation is more than “simply feeling good.” It is characterized by the peace of placing God at the center of our lives, truly seeking to follow the Lord’s will, even at the expense of our own immediate wishes.
For Ignatius Loyola, dreams of achieving glory as a soldier, while pleasing at first, ultimately left feelings of dissatisfaction. Imagining a life in service to God brought a sense of lasting fulfillment. Which of my desires bring me consolation in prayer? What might God be calling me to do with these?
—Brian Harper works in Chicago as a communications specialist for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuit provinces.