For souls that honestly seek the will of the Father, the devil often attacks with suggestions and ideas which on the surface seem good and holy. Many times, such provocations appear to be works of the Holy Spirit, but when we follow them we find agitation and confusion. The classic example is the person who suddenly feels called to live like some portrait of a past saint while neglecting their station in life.
In this way, we can pursue many “good” things that contain tinges of self-centeredness and egocentricity. This, in turn, subtly sabotages our good efforts at doing God’s will. The attacks of the devil always play upon our weaknesses, whether that be our fears and lack of affirmation or our anxiety about the future, and uses them to distort our thinking and feeling. Our actions thus flow from an interior life that is ruled by deep compulsions and lacks the freedom of the Spirit.
It is precisely spiritual freedom that St. Ignatius of Loyola highlights in his spiritual exercises as the foundation for proper discernment. His retreat is designed as a progressive movement whereby a person moves into greater liberation through the experience of God’s love. It is precisely the experience of our dignity as adopted sons and daughters which leads us to move beyond our fears and anxieties. We must come to realize that we are loved by God, and the gift of his love is unearned and unconditional.
Love is the antidote for the attacks of the Devil. We must always retreat to this fundamental need in our life and realize that without love our good works will always dry up. Freedom indicates that state in which the individual believer is able to disconnect themselves from the disorders of the heart and discover their identity in Christ. This does not mean that we will no longer suffer from these disorders, but rather that we will be able to discover Christ in the midst of our suffering. We come to experience the still point of Christ’s love, and this experience becomes a touchstone for discernment. We are able to measure and understand all our experience in relation to it.
This is why regular meditation is key. We must make time to allow Christ to reveal his love to us. Thus, our meditation must be regular, personal, and it must have a level of being “unscripted.” Meditation cannot take on the dimension of being one more part of our life that is strictly planned and carefully structured. It must be open to those promptings of the Spirit which open the heart in unexpected ways. Today, let us make time for this important work.