Brittany Longsdorf of Lewiston, ME, USA
But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. -Mark 6:21-27
The campers gathered by the lake on a dusky morning for devotions. Smooth stones in the middle of our circle had words inscribed on their underbellies with the blank sides facing up. Campers were invited to select a stone that was calling to them. The word inscribed on the stone was a term to carry with you and explore throughout the week.
Plucking up a stone, I promptly said aloud, “Oh, cool! I got Discernment!” and then whispered to my counselor, “What does discernment mean?” I have since learned that discernment isn’t merely about making choices or judging wisely, but is more accurately defined as the ability to truly perceive with both the eyes and the heart.
As a multifaith college chaplain I have conversations with students trying to discern big questions like what to do with their lives vocationally, and small questions like whether or not to go to a party. Choosing righteously is not often the popular choice, and it becomes complex when it is in relationship to a group of friends.
In Mark’s narrative we see King Herod making choices that are inspired by unhealthy expectations, social pressure, unwise blanket promises, and the intoxication of the crowd. His decision to behead John the Baptist certainly does not come from a place of discernment. If Herod had perceived with his eyes and his heart, he would have noted his deeply felt grief in this action.
Often we are called to discern rather than to simply choose. While I simply chose that rock out of a pile so long ago, it now sits on my desk reminding me and my students to choose righteously, to truly discern with both the eyes and the heart.
“Your mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23, adapted).
Ordinary Time is a season for noticing the details of life that make up its substance. This month, we invite you to pay attention with each fresh morning to the gift of being alive. Before getting out of bed, take a few deep breaths and notice what it feels like to wake up in your own body. Engage the tasks of your unfolding day with reverence-brushing your teeth, making the bed, pouring the coffee, tending the kids, feeding the animals, making breakfast, etc. Notice the presence of the Holy in every ordinary thing. Embrace your daily routines with sacramental significance. Notice how long you can do this before your attention is taken away, and commit to returning to this simple awareness as gently and often as you can.
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.