I am shocked by the answers I get to such a simple question. Or perhaps I should put it another way, I am not so much shocked by the answers that people give, but rather how many people find the question both challenging and difficult. I have been in active ministry for a grand total of 22 days, and despite my limited experience, I have asked this question on multiple occasions with a variety of responses.
In this time, I have developed a theory about those situations in which people are not able to respond. My gut tells me that in many of those circumstances, people are in need of conversion. Although they may believe in “doing good and being a good person,” they have not yet reached that moment in which the turn from the world and towards the Lord. Often, they want their lives to be better and they are desperately seeking spiritual consolation, but they still want heaven on their own terms.
In other words, instead of seeking the Lord and his will with complete abandonment, they still believe that the solutions to their problems lie primarily in their ability to analyze and correct the situation. This has nothing to do with being a “good person” vs. being a “bad person,” but rather the subtle recognition that we are in complete dependence on God.
We will discover happiness in this life to the extent in which we discover the voice of the Holy Spirit operating in the depths of our heart. We must learn to let our lives be guided by his voice, and such discernment is not the domain of lofty visions or secret knowledge. The reality is that the Holy Spirit speaks to us in the working of our interior dialogue, and discernment involves learning to sort through our thoughts, feelings, and desires.
In this way, we come see the patterns by which the Spirit renews and strengthens us and the lies of the devil which seek to ensnare us. Discernment teaches us that there are three sources for our interior life: the Holy Spirit, the devil, and our created nature. Throughout our day, the tug of war between these sources takes place in an on-going struggle between good and evil. The sacraments nourish us and heal our wounded nature so that the will can be strengthened enough to reject the lies of the devil so as to embrace the still, loving voice of God.
So in closing, I ask you: What does Jesus want to say to you? What are those inspirations that arise deep within you when you turn to the Lord; what does your intuition lead you to hear him saying to you? In addition, how are you going to respond to his voice?