Grace: a knowledge of the deceits of the rebel chief and help to guard myself against them, a knowledge of the true life exemplified in the sovereign and true Commander, and the grace to imitate Him.
Reflection: St. Ignatius—the former soldier—was particularly sensitive to the constant battle being waged within the world between the God who created us with dignity and the forces of evil which look to pervert that dignity to selfish ends. Human beings either praise, reverence, and serve God—thus becoming who they were created to be—or they follow a lie and begin to break themselves down in the core of their being. In this meditation we imagine these opposed paths of life as two armies encamped against each other, led by Christ on one hand, and Satan, the prince of lies, on the other. The grace we are seeking is first, a knowledge of Satan’s ways so that we can guard against them, and second, a knowledge of Christ’s so that we can more easily follow His path.
Each army has its own tactics, which St. Ignatius describes in detail. Imagining Satan sending his minions from Babylon throughout the world to ruin lives, he does not threaten people with physical ruin or force. No, he first entices them with the loves of riches. This love of riches and fear of poverty leads to the further station of love of honors, and once honors are loved, it is only a short step to the overweening pride that is the true mark of a soul separated from God. For it is the prideful soul that most readily follows the maxim “Non Serviam!” “I will not Serve!”
Christ, however, sends his apostles and disciples throughout the world from a lowly place on the plains near Jerusalem. And contrary to all worldly expectations, He does not seek to obtain followers through attractive signing bonuses. The ordeals He went through at the beginning of His life bear witness to this. He simply—the word is not chosen lightly—exhorts his followers to spiritual poverty (i.e., total reliance upon the Father in all matters) and even actual poverty if God so chooses. And if poverty isn’t enough to jar comfortable souls, He even encourages them to accept insults and contempt from the world. St. Ignatius believes if we are detached from the world’s approval we will more easily obtain the true root of all virtues: humility. If we possess humility, the Kingdom is ours. Every virtue flows easily into the soul which possesses it.
Poverty, contempt, and humility. These marks of the Standard of Christ are only possible for a human to bear if there is a God above who is completely loving and trustworthy. The “Good News” of the Gospel proclaims that yes, in fact, this God lives and has revealed Himself in Christ. Shall we follow beneath His banner?