Note: This meditation could easily last for the entire holy hour. It is a meditation unique to Saint Ignatius which he inserts here at the end of the meditations on Jesus’ infancy and hidden life, along with the next reflection on “The Three Classes of Men.” After these two reflections, you will begin to contemplate the public ministry of Jesus.
Standard of Lucifer: First, try to use your imagination to see the horrible and terrifying kingdom of the evil one. Imagine the place to be the vast and wide plain of Babylon (hell). Satan, in his pride, is seated on a high throne of fire and smoke to intimidate and impose his power. Using symbolic imagery, how does this place look, sound, smell and feel? (Silent Reflection)
Imagine the evil one calling his numerous demons to his throne and sending them forth, throughout the whole world, to every person and place. Imagine this vast army of diabolical creatures going forth on their mission of death and destruction. (Brief silent reflection)
What is their mission? To set up snares for God’s people and to imprison them in their sins. These diabolical spirits are well organized and fully committed to the deception of the human race. They plan, plot, prepare, strategize and execute their plan. Saint Ignatius says that satan instructs his demons to tempt God’s people in three initial ways:
To first desire riches in their heart.
To seek vainglory, honors and worldly recognition.
To puff up their pride.
Ponder those three temptations in your life for a while. Have you bought into these lies? (Silent Reflection)
Once the evil one has drawn a person into a love of riches, vainglory and self-centered pride, the person is disposed to be drawn into every other kind of evil deception. From those three initial temptations all other evils flow. Again, ponder these struggles in your own life.
The Standard of Christ: In contrast to the evil one, Christ is found in a humble and low plain near Jerusalem. He is standing there with crowds around Him. It is a beautiful and peaceful place. Imagine the scene of Him with a crowd of faithful followers around Him. (Silent Reflection)
One by one, Jesus chooses person after person to share in His divine mission. He calls them to Himself with gentleness, interior strength and authority. And then He sends them forth on a mission. Each one of them has discovered the call of Christ, discovered the interior riches of His grace, and with hearts set ablaze with love they eagerly go forth to joyfully spread His mercy and truth. They go forth to every corner of the Earth to draw others to Christ.
As Jesus sends them forth, He spends much time teaching them and preparing them. He delivers His most heartfelt and powerful sermons, teaches parables and wins their hearts and minds. He then instructs them to go forth and to preach. They are to draw people by attracting them to the simplicity and power of His message. This is what they are to preach and to encounter. Ponder the scene and each of the following messages:
- They are to preach about poverty. Interior spiritual poverty and even the value of leaving all for Christ.
- If they are rejected by some, then they must rejoice and not lose heart, even if people hold them and their message in contempt.
- They are to be humble and receive any humiliation in love.
By sending them forth this way, they are prepared to combat the lies of the evil one. They preach poverty to combat the love of money; they endure rejection to combat the desire for worldly status; and they preach and live humility so as to combat the evil of self-righteous pride.
Reflection: Which message is more attractive to you? Which kingdom do you desire to be a part of? This is a difficult question because many, if they are honest, will discover that they prefer the message of the evil one and his demons over the message of Christ the King. Jesus preaches poverty, rejection and humility. Satan preaches riches, honors and pride. Sit with this powerful contrast. Honestly evaluate which draws you more. Surrender yourself to the riches of poverty, rejection and even humiliation for the sake of Christ.
Spend a substantial amount of time pondering the following contrast as you consider your own life, desires, choices and actions.
Examining the Contrast:
Every other vice that follows
Riches of Grace
Hidden honor of virtue
Every other virtue that follows
Choosing Christ and His Kingdom requires a radical commitment. It requires deep faith to know and believe that the fruits of His Kingdom are far superior to satan’s. It may be easier to believe intellectually, but choosing Christ’s Kingdom over satan’s with your will and, ultimately, with every passion of your soul requires a faith that is deep, certain and unmovable by the temptations of the evil one. This meditation is central to Saint Ignatius’s spiritual teaching and plenty of time should be given it. Even if it is difficult, begin to choose Christ and His Kingdom now and pray that this choice will enter your actions and even desires as time goes by.
Featured Image: Félix Joseph Barrias – The Temptation of Christ by the Devil
Introduction to Meditations for Ordinary Time
- Baptism of the Lord
- Two Standards
- Three Classes of Men
- Calling of Apostles
- Wedding at Cana
- Cleansing the Temple
- Sermon on the Mount
- Calming the Storm
- Walking on Water
- The Apostles were Sent to Preach
- Conversion of Mary Magdalene
- How Christ Fed the Five Thousand
- Transfiguration of Christ
- Resurrection of Lazarus
- Supper in Bethany
- Three Ways of Humility