It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. With the war in Ukraine, I’ve been reflecting on what I can write. And while I’ve had various thoughts and ideas, words continue to escape me. It’s like a breathless silence in the face of unfathomable tragedy, a kind of freezing that is neither fight nor flight.
All I can really think about is what I’ve written about before: ego starts wars. And the ego is the partner of the evil spirit. The Russian president did not start this war—this genocide—for the sake of the common good. The ego does not care for the common good. Its sole focus is self-aggrandisement and saving face. It digs its heels in and escalates aggression and becomes more reactive when it realises it is losing ground.
This should humble all of us. We’re all prone to the tactics of the ego and the evil spirit: riches, honour, and pride, as Ignatius names them. But most of us leave room for the good spirit to sway us in the other direction, to have at least a little self-awareness and love and generosity. The unfortunate pattern we see throughout history is that many whose egos are big are ones who get to power. They appeal to the masses through quick fix solutions. And their position of power stokes the ego even more. This leads to further corruption.
The good spirit works not for the self, as the evil spirit does, but for the other, for community. And that work is slow. In fact, the path of the good spirit and of Jesus, can seem unappealingly slow. The ego is impatient and doesn’t want to waste time so it takes the side of the evil spirit’s false promises. It sees no other way. The good spirit invites us all into a journey of slow unfolding where there is space to grow in self-awareness, in love for neighbour, in dialogue and diplomacy.
I’d like to conclude by offering an adaptation of Ignatius’ Two Standards meditation I wrote several years ago for my Encountering Jesus group series. As you read this (or listen here at 2:26), let this be a time of prayer and meditation. Let the images sink into your mind and heart.
I close my eyes and first imagine a dark place, the place where Evil lives. The leader of this force goes by different names, one of which is Lucifer, which means “bearer of false light”. The dark place seems light to most, but no one can truly find their way in there. Lucifer’s mission is to convince good hearts to start wars and tear apart relationships. This evil is like an invisible dirty bomb that seeks to leave no one untouched. His army lives in the world, looking normal, designing tactics that push people into isolation and away from community and generosity. Lucifer’s followers love riches, honour, and pride. His quick fix solutions are cheaply manufactured and always disappoint. He peddles vices disguised as virtues, and vanity as the highest value. His followers will boast about their humility and how much they give to charity. “What good people,” some will say about them. But they are unaware of how enslaved they are.
I now imagine a place where all creation grows in bright sunlight, with green fields, and flowers waving in the breeze. This is where Goodness lives. Jesus is the leader who calls himself “the way, the truth, and the life”. This sunlit place has no coverings, no overturned baskets, no places to hide. All is in the warmth of Goodness. Jesus invites people to his mission in a gentle way, that calls them to freedom from enslavement. His offering of transformation is slow and requires much patience. His followers are invited not to riches, honour, and pride, but to poverty, lowliness, and humility. This is actually a path to freedom. Jesus invites all people, without exception. His followers know that living under the banner of Goodness and Love may mean rejection and ridicule. However, Jesus’ mission is to bring people out of isolation into community.
As I let these images wash over me, I begin speaking to God about my experience of good and evil in my life. I ask God to give me the grace to be Jesus’ follower. And then, when I am ready, I open my eyes.
Listen to the podcast version of this post…