Column: Sent by the Spirit: Can I really sense the spirit’s leadings?

By Father Bob Hogan, BBD
For Today’s Catholic

I have seen wonderful breakthroughs in people’s lives through following the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, but I have also seen people misinterpret an inner felling/sense as coming from God, causing confusion and sometimes harm. How can we be blessed in truly following the Spirit’s inspirations?

Scripture says that we should be open to prophetic impulses (leadings), but they need to be tested (discerned): “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances.  Test everything; retain what is good” (1 Thes 5:16-22). “Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God … every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God” (1 Jn 4:1-3).

Not every thought or feeling that pops into our heads is from the Holy Spirit. However, the Spirit wants to lead us to say the right words at the right time. We grow in this through a daily prayer life that includes: 1) Praising God, which opens us to the Spirit; 2) Allowing the Spirit to give us a quiet, attentive, inner spirit; 3) Praying with Scripture, the sword of the Spirit; 4) Conversation with God about your life, open to the Spirit’s inspirations (promptings); and 5) Intercession for others, which disposes us to the Spirit.

As we grow in prayerful openness to inner impulses, we need to test them. Am I…

Moved by My Fleshly Desires: Thoughts coming from my anger, fears, envy, or a desire to be noticed?  Moved by the World: Is the idea that I am sensing coming from my need to fit in with others, follow the crowd, peer pressure?  Moved by the Devil: Is this a temptation from the devil who seeks to deceive us?

In times of desolation (anxious, angry, sad, not at peace, fearful, confused, God feels distant), we should not trust what we are sensing, or any interior messages. When you return to a time of consolation (peace, joy, clarity, the Lord’s presence, love), then you can trust inner messages.

Cultivate a heart of obedience to the voice of Jesus, my Shepherd, and to follow the Spirit’s promptings. Am I growing in a zealous yet peaceful desire to obey God in all things and follow the teachings of the Catholic Church? Am I open to feedback and correction from pastors and spiritual guides?

Signs can confirm inspirations. There are interior signs of the presence of the Lord, peace, humility, joy, conviction, inner freedom, courage, clarity, generosity, fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22).  The message or call seems to come “from beyond yourself and your own ideas.”  Exterior signs include the sense of direction being confirmed by others’ words, external events, Scripture.

Great things happen when we follow the Spirit’s leadings! Let’s ask the Spirit daily to guide us and be open to inspirations! Ven, Holy Spirit, ven!

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