Saint Ignatius has placed me on a battlefield, right smack in the middle. Not as mediator, but as an active participant. During week two of the Spiritual Exercises, simply put, Ignatius gives us a choice, good or evil, Satan or the way of Christ. The Two Standards meditation from the Spiritual Exercises shows us how good and evil are competing for our commitment. In Ignatius’s time, a standard was a banner or a flag. Ignatius is asking us, which banner will you choose, which banner will you stand under.
Satan to my left has baited the hook with wealth, possession, honors and pride. Satan is allowing us to focus on our possessions. This focus is the enemy, the evil Saint Ignatius speaks of. Satan wants us to have the attitude of “look at me and what I have done”. Satan is clever, he wears many disguises and can adapt to all situations. He sets the trap and does it well.
Christ on my right, has lowered his line and baited the hook as well. His bait is spiritual poverty. Spiritual poverty has us not looking at our possessions and wealth as security and identity, but realizing and accepting that all we have is a gift. A gift from God. God also casts out another line. His bait of choice on this line is material poverty. As Kevin O’Brien, SJ states ” Material wealth is not in itself evil, but the wisdom of the Gospels and great sages, not to mention our own experience, teaches us that with wealth come temptations and distractions”. He leaves us with some self check questions:
Am I generous with my wealth?
Is my wealth getting in the way of other priorities in my life?
Does what I have define who I am?
Do the poor and forgotten have a place in my life?
What Saint Ignatius is showing us in this meditation is that what seems attractive can lead us to nowhere. He puts before us two sets of values. One set of values leads us closer to God, and the other set leads us away from God, but more importantly our true selves. We can’t have both, we need to make a choice. We are not tricked or seduced by God. He extends a gentle invitation to us on this battlefield. In this invitation he offers us unconditional love and a true freedom. A freedom to know I am loved for who I am, not because of my status, wealth or possessions. This invitation ends with a p.s……A life of humility is a great thing. Please join me in spiritual poverty by serving others through love and compassion. Some of my dots are coming together, but I need to be aware each day what battlefield I’m on, and what banner I’m standing under.
It may be that we’ve lost so much of ourselves in the climbing that we’re no longer in touch with who we really are, having become fragmented and lost along the way. Unknown