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Thursday, July 1, 2004

Test All Spirits

It is not every spirit that you can trust, test them, to see if they come from God
1 John 4:1
Today's culture seems to put the devil in the background, often times, making him look cute. Just look at Halloween celebrations. People dress up children like ghosts, witches and demons thinking that this is supposed to be cute. The children may be cute but what they represent is not.
This is one of the reasons why my wife and I never encouraged our children to celebrate Halloween. We do celebrate All Saints Day but never Halloween in the present cultural sense.
One good thing about this present cultural phenomenon though, is that there is some truth in the way they present the devil. He does not come in a scary way. He does not come with horns and tail and pitchfork. He often comes in a beautiful package. He was, after all, the angel of light so he comes as a beautiful angel.
He is capable of giving us false consolations which will mislead us to think this is from God.
In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius tells us that there are two spirits fighting to get our attention: the good spirit, which comes from God, and the evil spirit. Whereas the Spirit of God never lies, the evil spirit has no qualms of lying to mislead us from doing God's will.
If the choice is between good and evil, it will be easy to know since we always hold these before the teachings of the Church which is ALWAYS based on scripture. The problem is the choice between what is good and what is best.
God wants us to have the best. But the devil does not. So he will do everything to make us fall short of what the Lord has planned for us, oftentimes, giving us false consolations. He gives us false consolations to distract us and prevent us from doing and getting the best.
Not all consolations come from God. The devil can give false consolations.
We therefore should be careful to discern whether a consolation is from the Lord or not. Just because we feel good about something does not mean that it is good. When a man looks at a beautiful woman, he feels good. But that does not mean that the good feeling is from the Lord. If that man is not careful, that good feeling can lead to adultery or fornication.
This is why John tells us to test all spirits because not all spirits come from God. Being in ecstasy, seeing visions, praying in tongues does not mean these are from the Spirits. I am not saying that these are not from the Spirit. What I am saying is we need to test the Spirit. We cannot say that because we feel good when we had these consolations and because it is for the Lord, it is from the Lord.
These consolations should not be taken seriously. Experiencing these consolations do not indicate a person's level of holiness. In fact, giving these consolations more attention than they deserve will often lead to pride, thinking that one is holier than the other.
To prove this, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta lived in spiritual darkness for more than 50 years – without experiencing consolations from the Lord. Does this mean that just because she did not experience consolation, she was not holy?
Let us then pray that we will be able to treat these consolations as what they are, signs of God's love and nothing more.

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