Discern, discern, discern. Discern everything. Discern what you think you already discerned. Have you noticed how hard it is to get to the truth these days?
Too many no longer care. Whatever fits one's preconceived notion is verified. Facts are superfluous. Who has time to listen, pray, read?
Instead, we forge ahead with opinions. This is not what "sets you free," not what illuminates. It's what places you in bondage. "Cults" of all kinds (religious, social, political) run rampant in our day.
The first signs: fanaticism.
It is happening in all walks of life -- with those of a liberal bent as well as many of us conservatives. It is certainly at work -- this blurring of the lines between truth and falsity -- even, on all sides, in the Church.
Instead of truth, there's bluster; there is antagonism. Did a nominee for the Supreme Court assault a teenager decades ago? Were charges falsely remembered, forgotten, concocted, exaggerated?
A nation stumbled around trying to figure it out. Or did it really try figuring out anything?
Facts are no longer important if they interfere with preconceived ideas ("Fake news!"). "To thine own self be true," said Shakespeare. Yet how often (and automatically) do we lie to maintain a preconception?
No more common ground -- and no more common veracity or reality. Think about it for a moment: Instead of etched in stone, truth has become quicksilver, elusive and behind the vanity mirror.
We are not to take up the sword of this passing world but "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (Ephesians 6). Truth exposes the "secret thoughts of many" (Luke 2:35).
"But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come," says John 16:13.
How often do you ask God before taking a stand? Do you make up your mind before praying? Is the Bible your source, or is it radio/television? With what frequency do you make a discernment before sincerely asking the Holy Spirit? Do you fast? (Fasting dispels false notions because it brings clarity.)
If you believe and repeat a falsehood, especially a false allegation, before really knowing its accuracy, you are held to account for that. It is called gossip. Sometimes, calumny. You muddy your path to the pristine landscapes of Heaven.
And so muddied are our times, and rancorous, that only through the Holy Spirit can we possibly find the most direct path to the narrow gate, and only when we carry no baggage of falsity (about ourselves and others) can we fit through it.
[Footnote: said a conservative blogger last week: "Call it 'the revenge of subjectivism': In the absence of objective facts, and even in absence of agreement whether objective facts exist and are knowable, credibility becomes uselessly self-referential. What's 'true' for you isn't necessarily what's 'true' for me; the standards of credibility are whatever you choose... The essence of subjectivism is that my preference/desire/need to believe X trumps all facts and logic which say not-X is true. They can't be 'facts' or 'logic' if they disrupt my worldview or self-image. And if you disagree with me, you're defective. You're stupid or biased or misogynist or hysterical or internalizing the oppressor or yadda-yadda-yadda. What's true for you isn't necessarily true for me, but what's true for me better darn well be true for you, too!"]