Reflecting on the work of the Holy Spirit as we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost this Sunday, I asked about how the Holy Spirit allows violence like the several bomb attacks in Surabaya, Indonesia. “How can God be so cruel to allow parents to use their children to kill themselves and others brutally?” A similar question would be applied to myself, “Where was God today?” or “How was God moving in my life?” “Is God absent when bad things happen to me and to the world?”
Saint Ignatius the founder of the Jesuit Order has contributed to the church with what we call “Spiritual Exercises”. Discernment is an important part of his spiritual exercises. Discernment would help us to know the works of the good spirit which are different to the works of the bad spirit. And we know that the good spirit gives us consolation (different from happiness) and moves us closer to God. It may sting our conscience when we know we’re getting far away from God. The evil spirit, on the other hand, does the opposite.
Ignatius believed that good and evil are constantly battling to win our fidelity. And the evil would be willing to appear good in order to win us over. Jesus experienced this in the desert when the devil tempted him. Bill Barry, SJ once said: “[the evil spirit] brings good and holy thoughts attractive to such an upright soul and then strives little by little to get his own way, by enticing the soul over to his own hidden deceits and evil intentions.” (Bill Barry, SJ’s article on the evil spirit). I suppose that those terrorists who killed innocent people in the name of a certain religion are guided by the bad spirit to gain a false utopia of heaven.
The celebration of Pentecost today is a celebration of the good spirit winning over the bad spirit. It could be reflected on the fact that the disciples of Jesus became fearless, being filled with the Spirit to speak in different languages and having great zeal of mission. It marked also the beginning of the foundation of the church. Therefore, be open to the Holy Spirit and let the good spirit win. Don’t give any space to the bad spirit. We pray also that people all over the world may be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.