Jesus warns his disciples to beware of false prophets, using imagery they understood. Ignatius provided us with the imaginative meditation of the Two Standards, pitting the life of riches, honor, and pride offered by the “enemy of our human nature,” over against Christ’s life of poverty, powerlessness and humility. What imagery would we use to describe false prophets today? More importantly, how do we discover them vigorously or subtly controlling our lives, and then find the courage and freedom to abandon them and follow Christ?  

The discernment process is the ongoing task of learning to recognize when we are being driven by false, negative, distractive spirits and when we are drawn to the good, positive, creative spirits in our hearts. We must discern where our imagination and life energy is focused. Are we focused on ourselves or on God and others?  Jesus wants us to bear good fruit. What do we desire?

Jim Sweany is a spiritual director in the Ignatian tradition. He is associated with the Chicago Region Ignatian Volunteer Corps as a spiritual animator, reflector, and Advisory Board Chair. He also directs the Spiritual Exercises for the SEEL program at Loyola University Chicago.