Scripture and discernment

“Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
Acts 16: 8

In May 2006 I was thinking about where God might be leading me and visited El Salvador and Honduras.

There was a paying job in El Salvador which I had applied for, which fit well with my vision as well as my experience. I visited the site, though the interview would be in Iowa.

I then went to Honduras to visit Sister Nancy, a friend I have known since 1991 in El Salvador. She was then working in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán. I had asked her if there was any way that I could be of help there. She arranged for me to meet the bishop.

I stayed several days with Nancy before meeting the bishop. On Saturday I went out with her to visit a rural community.

That morning I read, as is my custom, the lectionary readings of the day – the same as today’s.

Paul and Timothy are prevented from preaching in Mysia but Paul has a dream of a Macedonian pleading with him: “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” From this Paul concluded, “That God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.”

That passage struck me. Was I being called by the people of Honduras to come and accompany them?

After meeting the bishop who gladly welcomed me (while reminding me he had no money for me to be there), I had a deep sense that this was where I was being called.

Though I have deep ties with El Salvador, something was calling me here. Maybe it wasn’t “something,” but somebody, the Spirit of God, who was not allowing me to go where it would have been more comfortable.

Things became clearer during the next few months as I discussed this with my spiritual director, friends, and the community at St. Thomas AquinAs in Ames, Iowa, where I was working. I also worked on the details of how I could do this. But it was the encounter here in Honduras with the people, seen through the lens of today’s first reading (Acts 16: 1-10), that guided me.

Sometimes scripture speaks directly to us and give us a sense of where God is calling us.

There is, of course, the danger that we may be reading the Word of God to have it fit into our plans. But, with prayer and with careful discernment – personally and with the Christian community – God may lead us.

For me, this led to withdrawing my name from the search for the El Salvador position, even after I had been called back for a second interview.  It led, to seeking ways to finance my presence in the Santa Rosa diocese, as well as to sell house and car and give away many things I had.

What also led me to Honduras rather than El Salvador was my sense that there was a greater need in Honduras. Honduras is poorer than El Salvador  and there is less international solidarity.

And so, after much discernment and with a lot of support, I arrived in Honduras on June 13, 2007, and have been blessed to serve here since.

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One response to “Scripture and discernment

  1. More grist for the mill. Thank you, John!

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