Reflections on Discernment of the Spiritual Journey

by Rev. Greg May, C.Ss.R.

St. Alphonsus Liguori

This passage from Micah reflects his spiritual maturity and discernment of what is important in life. At this time in history, the Hebrews saw their devotion and relationship to God through the action of offering sacrifices to Yahweh. The size the sacrifice and the frequency of sacrifices were outward signs of faith. Micah came to realize that this external action was empty if it did not bring a person closer to God and others. He saw the abuses of power and wealth destroying the nation and challenged those who saw their self-righteousness in animal sacrifices instead of their treatment of the poor.

His statement that the desire to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God was the true expression of a good relationship with God. Micah’s spiritual awakening concerned the realization that his external expression of faith had to be a life of justice. More importantly, his internal desire had to be focused on Divine Love which would be the reason he acted justly by sharing this love with others.

This spiritual journey was only possible by understanding his need for God and taking the time to walk humbly with God in his daily life. This spiritual insight was only possible because he reflected on what motivation was important to having a relationship with God. His spiritual insight went contrary to the expressions of faith at that time. He chose the spiritual path that defined who he was with God especially by being a prophetic voice; he called the people back to God.

Our own spiritual journey must also follow a similar path. The expression of faith must be grounded in a good relationship with God.

St. Alphonsus, the founder of the Redemptorists, had his own spiritual journey. Like Micah he grew up in an atmosphere of faith. In trying to be true to his relationship with God, he had to challenge the life path set out for him. Much of St. Alphonsus’ early life consisted in following the path that his father had chosen for him. The eldest son was to be heir to the family name and wealth. He was brought up in a Christian environment but was also educated to be a nobleman in the Kingdom of Naples. His mother’s family was also from the noble class that rose to power in the courts of Naples. This was the path that St. Alphonsus embraced at an early age. He was 16 when he passed the exams to begin this profession. For the next 10 years, this was his life. His father also endeavored to find a suitable spouse that would advance his career and status in society.

During this time as a young lawyer, he paid attention to the needs of the poor especially the incurables that were preparing for death. The compassion he had for the downtrodden was the expression of his faith. He found comfort in helping those in need by representing them in court and by sharing his faith with others. He only took on honest cases when his clients had been wronged and he needed to fight for their rights. He had never lost a case until one case in which justice was thwarted by bribes. Losing this case changed his path in life since he now experienced the hypocrisy of his profession. He came to understand that the judicial system was part of the corruption of society instead of an instrument for bringing justice to people.

The desire to serve the marginalized took on new meaning since he recognized that the life he was living was not the path to becoming a disciple of Jesus. The call to the priesthood summoned him away from the life of a nobleman. The spirituality of Jesus, the savior of all people especially the marginalized of society, became the focus of St. Alphonsus’ life. He already practiced living this spirituality, but he then decided to dedicate his whole life to the goal by being ordained. It was through his role as a priest that he determined to dedicate his time and energy for the sake of the lowly. In preparation for ordination, he chose to expand his expression of this spirituality by preaching the good news of salvation, walking with the condemned and showing mercy to people who believed that God could not forgive them.

Micah and St. Alphonsus had a spiritual journey with God that guided their actions. The very understanding of how to seek justice, love tenderly and walk humbly with God gave both of these men the strength they needed to be faithful to God and make a difference in the lives they touched.

When people talk about their spiritual journey, they often must discern their priorities in life and see how they relate to their priorities in faith. When a person’s priorities are harmonized between life and faith, a person is content with their spiritual journey. However, when there are major conflicts between priorities of life and faith, a person is forced to change his or her priorities to find peace and harmony on the spiritual journey. St. Alphonsus was conflicted by the priorities of his professional life and the priorities of his faith. He changed his profession so he could find peace on his spiritual journey.  


This reflection is part of a Circle Prayer study group for Redemptorist Associates. Redemptorist Associates are men and women who have studied the Redemptorist charism and spirituality. They have chosen to make a temporary commitment to live the spirituality of the Redemptorist, participate in Redemptorists Circles for ongoing support and formation, and choose a personal ministry as a manifestation of God’s Redeeming Love.

If you would like more information on Partners in Mission, please contact Fr. Greg May, C.Ss.R., at PIM@redemptorists-denver.org