Wee thought from John on 1 John 4:1-6

John Brogdar

Reading the passage Jonathan preached on this morning, I was reminded of the approach to ‘testing the spirits’ which is followed in Ignatian practice, and which I have found very helpful. Here the focus is looking not outward, at the culture around us, but at our hearts, and discerning the voices we hear there – the thoughts, and impulses, and imaginings within us. Some of these ‘voices’ bring consolation, peace, inspiration – these impulses always prompt us towards love, wholeness, healing, refreshment in the streams of God’s love, challenge to do difficult things requiring courage and sacrifice. Some bring what St Ignatius called ‘desolation’ – sadness, despondency,  but also impulses to think and do things which are destructive rather than upbuilding in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  It is not always easy to tell the difference – sometimes, what seems to us in our excitement to be great ideas, will on reflection, be seen to bring negative consequences.  Some things we shrink from may in fact be what we are called to do.

St Ignatius probably had in mind literal ‘spirits’ when he wrote of ‘testing the spirits.’  Many Christians today would interpret these ‘inner impulses’ in psychological terms, but this makes no difference to haw we deal with them.

Ignatian practice involves a regular ‘review of the day’, conducted in prayer and openness to the Holy Spirit. What are the thoughts of our hearts? Have we let positive thoughts lead us today, and lived in the light of God’s grace? Or have we followed negative and destructive thoughts?

As we go through life, it is so assuring to know that, as John says in today’s passage ‘the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.’  The Spirit of God is within us, helping us as we discern, and follow.

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