Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Midweek Meditation: "A Rule of Discernment"

We all want to seek God's will. The trouble for us in this world is that there are so many conflicting signals and messages that the world throws at us. The solution is not to get rid of the world or all messages but to discern them well. One of the greatest spiritual classics on spiritual discernment is St Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises. Hear what Ignatius has to say with regards to the first step to take.

"The First Rule. In the case of persons who are going from one mortal sin to another, the enemy ordinarily proposes to them apparent pleasures. He makes them imagine delights and pleasures of the senses, in order to hold them fast and plunge them in their sins and vices. But with persons of this type the good spirit uses a contrary procedure. Through their habitual sound judgment on problems of morality he stings their consciences with remorse." (Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises and Selected Works, Mahwah, NY: Paulist Press, 1991, p201)
Temptations work best not by direct confrontation but works its seductive charm in the background or by the side. This way, it catches the person unaware and hooks the unsuspecting. For anyone who has decided to turn to the light of truth, he immediately shows up as a blip on the enemy's radar screen. The way to turn them back to the dark side is to remind them "how good" the feeling was, or "how delicious" the taste had been. It follows up with a tempting, "Why not taste it again?" failing which it persuades by saying, "Just try it one, just once. It'll not hurt, I promise."

These and many more mortal delights are like spiritual narcotic. Once consumed, they are immediately addictive. Ignatius suggests we use a "contrary procedure." Fight against every temptation with a counter. Just like Jesus, who fights off each temptation not just by quoting Scripture, but by quoting Scripture correctly.


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