Discerning the spirit

By: Fr. Roy Cimagala

WE should be experts in discerning the spirit that animates us. Our life principle is our soul which is spiritual. As such, we need to know the kind of spirit that animates our soul that in turn animates our whole life.

We have to realize that there are many kinds of spirits roaming around the world, and we have to learn how to discern them. There is the spirit of God, the spirit of Christ as opposed to the antichrist. There is also the evil spirit, and the spirit of the world that is dominated by the evil one, and the spirit of the flesh.

St. John was explicit as to which spirit is proper to us. “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already.” (1 Jn 4,2-3)

St. Paul distinguished between the fruits of the Spirit of God and the works of the flesh dominated by the evil spirit. The former include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (cfr Gal 5,22-23)

The latter include fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing. (cfr Gal 5,19-21)

We would somehow know the kind of spirit we have by the kind of thoughts, desires and loves we have. If we look more closely at how our consciousness works, what its usual contents are, what we are most aware of, we would have an idea of the kind of spirit we have. All we have to do is to see if our thoughts, desires and loves are those of the fruits of the spirit or the fruits of the flesh.

This is also true when we examine the kind of dreams we have in our sleep where we are supposed to be unconscious. Our state of unconsciousness is when we disengage ourselves for a while from our bodily mechanisms, but it is in that state where our spirit takes over, so to speak. In a sense, it’s when we are unconscious that the kind of spirit we have can be known.

We know, of course, that with our wounded, sinful human condition at present, our spirit is not yet totally that of the spirit of God. In fact, it may somehow be dominated by the spirit of the flesh, of the world, if not, God forbid, of the devil itself.

That is why we need to struggle. The ascetical struggle is a constant feature in our earthly life which will always be an arena between the forces of good and evil. We have to get used to this fact of life and train ourselves adequately for it.

To be sure, God will always be on our side. Even if we are lost, God will always seek us out, as dramatized in those parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son. We just have to try our best to correspond to God’s constant interventions and solicitude over us.

The important thing to remember is that we should try our best that the spirit that should animate us is the spirit of God, and not any other spirit. We cannot, therefore, underestimate the need for us to be always on guard. Let’s remember that we are the favorite targets of the enemies of God since we have been created in his image and likeness.

It would be good if we are transparent about this business of identifying the kind of spirit we have at the moment. Through constant examinations of conscience, through spiritual direction and other spiritual means, we would know the kind of spirit we have.

Email: roycimagala@gmail.com