Grace: To understand the deceits of the Enemy, to guard myself against them, to desire to live the true life exemplified in the sovereign and true Commander, and to imitate Him each day.
Text for Prayer: Spiritual Exercises 136-147
Reflection: The text for today’s prayer is known as the meditation upon two standards: two ways that lie open before us, either for death or for life (Dt. 30:15-20). It might seem foolish and illogical that anyone, when given the choice, would choose death. And yet, from our reflection upon our own sinfulness, we realize that this crazy person is in fact me. There must therefore be some real attraction to the wrong way for us, some scheme that tricks us and traps us in something that we do not want for ourselves. Understanding that trick is the whole goal of the meditation on the two standards.
The trick works something like this: There is a military leader, a Dark One, who stands before his terrible armies in the field of battle and commands them to mislead and capture a human soul. First they are to inkindle in us a love of riches, then of honor and the worldly esteem of other men. Finally, they are to lead us to the great rebellion against God, Pride. This is logical enough, for wealth makes us feel self-sufficient, honors and esteem make us believe that we are better than our fellow man, and we become prideful when both of these lies are believed whole-heartedly by a troubled soul.
But these are all lies. The truth is that we are utterly dependent, like a new-born babe, our whole life long. We cannot say how long we will live or in what way we will die, but perhaps the greatest evidence of our own poverty is the fact that we must suffer. Suffering is always with us, even when we distract ourselves. When we embrace our own knowledge of the poverty of being human, we may grow to despise anything that tries to tell us we are really self-sufficient, for if we were, we could choose to not suffer. Likewise, if we realize that we are utterly dependent, we might grow in the knowledge that all human beings share this in common, that we are all dependent upon God, all suffering in ways we did not choose for ourselves. Thus, spiritual poverty leads to contempt for worldly ideals and the self-importance that comes with them, which then leads to true humility, true knowledge that I am Not God, just as God is I Am (Ex. 3:13-14).
This, then, is the banner or way that is opposed by the Dark One’s; this is the way of Christ, who stands before his armies of angels, saints, apostles, martyrs, and disciples, who inspires love instead of fear, and who teaches us first spiritual poverty (and sometimes material poverty as well) before then leading us to contempt for worldly honors and ultimately the humility that this brings.
Questions: Which standard do I desire to process under? Which way will I choose going forward? What can I do to continuously be mindful of the tricks of the Dark One, that I might always act according to this choice?