Pope Francis says "God wants children, not slaves: free children. And love can only be lived in freedom. To learn to live one must learn to love..." FULL TEXT + Video


Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 31 August 2022


Catechesis On Discernment:  1. What does it mean to discern?

Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

Today we begin a new cycle of catechesis: we have finished the catechesis on old age, now we begin a new cycle on the theme of discernment. Discernment is an important act that concerns everyone, because choices are an essential part of life. One chooses food, clothing, a course of study, a job, a relationship. In all of these, a life project is realised, and even our relationship with God is concretized.

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of discernment with images taken from ordinary life; for example, he describes the fisher who selects the good fish and discards the bad ones; or the merchant who knows how to identify, among many pearls, the one of greatest value. Or he who, ploughing a field, comes across something that turns out to be a treasure (cf. Mt 13:44-48).

In the light of these examples, discernment presents itself as an exercise of intelligence, of also of skill [It: ‘perizia’] and also of will, to seize the opportune moment: these are the conditions for making a good choice. It takes intelligence, skill, and also will to make a good choice. And there is also a price required for discernment to become effective. To perform his trade to the best of his ability, the fisher reckons with hard work, long nights spent at sea, and then discarding some of the catch, accepting a loss of profit for the sake of those for whom it is intended. The pearl merchant does not hesitate to spend everything to buy that pearl; and so does the person who has stumbled upon a treasure. [These are] unexpected, unplanned situations, where it is crucial to recognise the importance and urgency of a decision to be made.

Everyone has to make decisions; there is no one to make it for us. At a certain point, adults can freely ask for advice; we can reflect, but the decision is our own. We can’t say, ‘I lost this, because my husband decided, my wife decided, my brother decided.’ No. You have to decide, each of us has to decide, and for this reason it is important to know how to discern, to decide well it is necessary to know how to discern.

The Gospel suggests another important aspect of discernment: it involves the emotions. The one who has found the treasure feels no difficulty in selling everything, so great is his joy (cf. Mt 13:44). The term used by the evangelist Matthew indicates a very special joy, which no human reality can give; and indeed it recurs in very few other passages of the Gospel, all of which refer to the encounter with God. It is the joy of the Magi when, after a long and arduous journey, they see the star again (cf. Mt 2:10); the joy, it is the joy of the women who return from the empty tomb after hearing the angel’s announcement of the resurrection (cf. Mt 28:8). It is the joy of those who have found the Lord. Making a good decision, a correct decision, always leads you to that final joy; perhaps along the way you have to suffer a bit of uncertainty, thinking, seeking, but in the end the right decision blesses you with joy.

In the final judgement God will exercise discernment – the great discernment – with regard to us. The images of the farmer, the fisher, and the merchant are examples of what happens in the Kingdom of Heaven, a Kingdom that manifests itself in the ordinary actions of life, which require us to take a stand. This is why it is so important to be able to discern: great choices can arise from circumstances that at first sight seem secondary, but turn out to be decisive. For example, let us think of Andrew and John’s first encounter with Jesus, an encounter that stems from a simple question: ‘Rabbi, where do you live?’ — ‘Come and see,’ says Jesus (cf. Jn 1:38-39). A very brief exchange, but it is the beginning of a change that, step by step, will mark their whole life. Years later, the Evangelist will continue to remember that encounter that changed him forever, and he will even remember the time: ‘It was about four o’clock in the afternoon’ (v. 39). It is the hour when time and the eternal met in his life. And in a good decision, correct, there is an encounter between God’s will and our will; there is an encounter between the present path and the eternal. Making the right decision, after a path of discernment, is to make this encounter: time with eternity.

So: knowledge, experience, emotion, will: these are some of the indispensable elements of discernment. In the course of these catecheses we will see others, equally important.

Discernment — as I’ve said — involves hard work. According to the Bible, we do not find set before us, pre-packaged, the life we are to live. No! We have to decide it all the time, according to the reality that comes. God invites us to evaluate and choose: He created us free and wants us to exercise our freedom. Therefore, discerning is demanding.

We have often had this experience: choosing something that seemed good to us and yet was not. Or knowing what our true good was and not choosing it. Human beings, unlike animals, can be wrong, can be unwilling to choose correctly – freedom, no? And the Bible shows this from its very first pages. God gives man a precise instruction: if you want to live, if you want to enjoy life, remember that you are a creature, that you are not the criterion of good and evil, and that the choices you make will have a consequence, for you, for others and for the world (cf. Gen 2:16-17); you can make the earth a magnificent garden or you can make it a desert of death. A fundamental teaching: it is no coincidence that this is the first dialogue between God and man. The dialogue is: the Lord gives the mission, you have to do this and that; and every person, the step he or she takes, must discern which decision to make. Discernment is that reflection of the mind, of the heart, that we have to do before making a decision.

Discernment is demanding but indispensable for living. It requires that I know myself, that I know what is good for me here and now. Above all, it requires a filial relationship with God. God is Father and He does not leave us alone, He is always willing to advise us, to encourage us, to welcome us. But He never imposes His will. Why? Because He wants to be loved and not feared. And also, God wants children, not slaves: free children. And love can only be lived in freedom. To learn to live one must learn to love, and for this it is necessary to discern: what can I do now, faced with this alternative? Let it be a sign of greater love, of greater maturity in love. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us! Let us invoke Him every day, especially when we have choices to make.



Tomorrow we will celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Creation, and the beginning of the Time of Creation, which will end on October 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. May this year's theme, "Listen to the voice of creation", foster a concrete commitment in all to take care of our common home. At the mercy of our consumer excesses, Sister Mother Earth groans and begs us to stop our abuse and its destruction. During this Time of Creation, let us pray that the UN COP27 and COP15 summits can unite the human family in resolutely tackling the double crisis of the climate and the reduction of biodiversity.
* * *
I am following with concern the violent events that have taken place in Baghdad in recent days. We ask God in prayer to give peace to the Iraqi people. Last year I had the joy of visiting it, and I felt closely the great desire for normality and peaceful coexistence between the various religious communities that make it up. Dialogue and fraternity are the main way to face the current difficulties and reach this goal.
I extend a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the numerous Confirmation groups, including that of the Diocese of Chiavari. Dear children, only Christ has the words of eternal life. I wish you always to follow him with enthusiasm and to bear witness to the Gospel with joy every day of your life, supported by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I greet with affection the faithful of Rieti and Amatrice. Your presence evokes in my mind the earthquake of 24 August 6 years ago that struck Amatrice, Accumoli and Arquata del Tronto. In remembering the dead in prayer, I renew my heartfelt closeness to my family. I hope that the help of institutions and people of good will continues, so that life can be reborn in these territories.
Finally, my thoughts go, as usual, to the elderly, the sick, the young and the newlyweds. I invite everyone to find courage and hope in God every day to live their respective vocation to the full. I heartily bless you!

Special Greetings

Je salue cordialment les pèlerins de langue française présents à cette audience, en particulier les fidèles syriaques catholiques de la Mission de la Sainte Famille de Lyon. Le discernement est ardu mais indispensable pour vivre. The exige de nous connaître, de savoir ce qui est bon pour nous, ici et maintenant. Par-dessus tout, the exige une relation filial avec Dieu. Parce qu'il veut être aimé et non craint, Dieu n'impose jamais knows will of him. Mais il est Père et ne nous laisse pas seuls, toujours prêt à nous conseiller, à nous encourager, à nous accueillir. Que l'Esprit-Saint guide nos choix quotidiens, et vous bénisse!

[I cordially greet the French-speaking pilgrims present at this audience, in particular the Syriac-Catholic faithful of the Mission of the Holy Family in Lyon. Discernment is difficult but indispensable for living. It requires knowing ourselves, knowing what is good for us, here and now. Above all, it requires a filial relationship with God. Because he wants to be loved and not feared, God never imposes his will. But He is Father and He does not leave us alone; he is always ready to advise us, to encourage us, to welcome us. The Holy Spirit guides our daily choices. The Lord bless you!]

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from Malta, Nigeria and the United States of America. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the Holy Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, joy and peace. God bless you all!

Von Herzen grüße ich die Pilger deutscher Sprache. Bitten wir täglich um die Gabe des Heiligen Geistes, auf dass er uns helfe, alle unsere kleinen und großen Entscheidungen am Willen Gottes auszurichten. So finden wir zur wahren Freiheit und zur Fülle des Lebens.

[I warmly greet the German-speaking pilgrims. We ask every day for the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us guide all our small and big decisions according to God's will. In this way we will find true freedom and fullness of life. My blessing to all.]

I cordially greet los peregrinos de lengua española. Hay tantos mexicanos aquí; uruguayos, colombianos, salteños, argentinos. Quiero expresar mi cercanía de modo especial a todos los que el día de ayer celebraron in Santa Rosa de Lima as su patrona, particularly in los enfermeros y enfermeras del Peru. Pidamos al Señor que nos dé la gracia de saber discernir con libertad y amor, en los acontecimientos de la vida diaria. Que Dios los bendiga. Muchas gracias.

Saúdo cordially os fiéis de língua portuguesa, em particular a tripulação do Navio-Escola “Brasil”. Irmãos and irmãs, não deixeis jamais de pedir a ajuda do Espírito Santo - guia segura para um bom discernimento - em cada escolha que tenhais de fazer. Que Deus vos abençoe!

[I cordially greet the Portuguese-speaking faithful, in particular the crew of the "Brasil" training ship. Brothers and sisters, do not fail to ask for the help of the Holy Spirit in every choice you have to make. He is a sure guide to good discernment. God bless you!]

أُحَيِّي المؤمِنينَ الناطِقينَ باللغَةِ العربِيَّة. اللهُ أبٌ ولا يَترُكُنا وَحدَنا ، وهوَ مُستَعِدٌّ دائمًا لأن يَنصَحَنا ، وَيُشَجِّعَنا ، وَيُرَحِّبَ بانا. وهوَ لا يَفرِضُ إرادَتَهُ علينا أبدًا ، لأنَّه يريدُ أن نُحِبَّهُ ، لا أنْ نَخافَهُ. He باركَكُم الرّبُّ جَميعًا وحَماكُم دائِمًا مِن كُلِّ شَرّ!

[I greet the Arabic-speaking faithful. God is Father and does not leave us alone, he is always willing to advise us, to encourage us, to welcome us, and he never imposes his will on him, because he wants to be loved and not feared. This is why he invites us to evaluate and choose, since he created us free and wants us to exercise our freedom. The Lord bless you all and always protect you from all evil!]

Pozdrawiam serdecznie wszystkich Polaków. Jutro będziecie wspominać rocznicę wybuchu II wojny światowej, która tak boleśnie naznaczyła naród polski. A dzisiaj żyjemy w trzeciej. Niech pamięć o minionych doświadczeniach determinuje was do pielęgnowania pokoju w sobie, w rodzinach, w życiu społecznym i międzynarodowym. Módlmy się w szczególny Sposaób za naród ukraiński. Niech Maryja wspiera was w codziennym wybieraniu dobra, sprawiedliwości i solidarności z potrzebującymi, rodząc w sercach nadzieję, radość i wewnętrzną wolność. Z serca wam błogosławię.

[I cordially greet all the Poles. Tomorrow you will remember the outbreak of the Second World War, which so painfully affected the Polish nation. And today we are experiencing the Third. May the memory of past experiences push you to cultivate peace in yourselves, in families, in social and international life. We pray in a special way for the Ukrainian people. May Mary support you in your daily choice of goodness, justice and solidarity with the needy, generating hope, joy and interior freedom in your hearts. I bless you from my heart.]