In this modern world of ours there would seem to be a growing gap between the so called values of our society and the values of those of us who have faith, those of us who have accepted our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ into our lives and strive to live by his standards and proclaim His Gospel. Even those who make our laws and serve us as our governments seem determined at times to undermine those of us who live by a higher set of rules (not that being a Christian is about of set of rules but rather is a complete conversion of life) There is no doubt about it that Christianity is no longer in vogue in this country and that we have a fight on our hands to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. And fight the good fight we shall.
Does this contrast not reveal the difference, the contrast, between those living with the Spirit of God and those not listening to the Spirit of God? What a blessing in one’s life to be a friend of Jesus and Mary and live life in union with them. What a grace for some that they opened their hearts to God and God fills their hearts. These controversies of our days show that some people are living with God in their hearts and others do not realize that what they do is offensive to God. Can we not see in these days that the Holy Spirit is active in some people’s lives and others seem to be following something other than the Holy Spirit?
“when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” (John 16:13)
In our days we see some guided by the Spirit of truth and others guided by a different spirit. St Paul wrote about the difference between those guided by the Spirit and those who are not.
…live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other…(Gal 5:16-17)
Paul went on to give examples of exactly what he meant. About those not guided by the Spirit Paul wrote,
the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. (Gal 5:19-21)
How can such people really be happy? What a mess to be in. Let us pray that people who live that way today may come to find the Lord and leave that way of life behind. But Paul says those who have the Spirit have these fruits,
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23)
Traditionally the Church has also added another three fruits of the Spirit – goodness, modesty and chastity - giving us a total of twelve fruits of the Spirit. Those showing these qualities in their lives are obviously happy people, not people without crosses and trials and sufferings, but happy people because they have opened their hearts to God and are receiving God’s blessings. What Paul wrote to the Galatians is precisely what we see in our world today, there are those guided by the works of the flesh and others who have opened themselves to God and have produced the fruits of
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity.
When we compare what Paul has said to our world we are very aware that our world is a mixed bag, engaging in what Paul calls “the works of the flesh” and also doing works of kindness. We are also painfully aware that the same applies to the Church of Christ, there are some who are engaging in “the works of the flesh” and those producing the fruits of the Spirit. If everyone in our Church were fully open to the Spirit of God what a different world we would have. See what happened in Jerusalem when a small number of apostles and disciples of Jesus received the Holy Spirit. We read in Acts that thousands accepted Jesus as the Messiah in the days immediately following Pentecost. That is because those early disciples of Jesus were authentic and genuine about their belief in Jesus, so authentic and genuine that they were prepared to suffer if necessary to show that they believed Jesus was the Messiah.
During the Last Supper, before his Passion, as we hear in the Gospel, Jesus had said they would testify and witness to him after receiving the Holy Spirit.
When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27)
Yes there are those who testify and witness today by their lives that Jesus is the Messiah and the way he taught us is the only way to live. But our Church and indeed all Christian churches are suffering because of many who are not witnessing to Jesus and engaging in “the works of the flesh.” We heard in our first reading that everyone in Jerusalem heard the apostles and disciples speaking in their own language. In our day there is one language that can unite all peoples, that is if we as a Church are united in love as authentic followers of Jesus. The language of love and living as authentic and genuine followers of Jesus is what will attract people to the Church and help them to follow Jesus.
What can we do? None of us is yet a perfect copy of Jesus, none of us has yet become what we are called to be. Is there anything we can do to open ourselves more to the Spirit so that we may inspire more to follow Jesus? Can we pray more every day? It would be good to pray as much as possible. Is there anything in our lives we need to change? What about what we view on TV and what we read. What about the music we listen to? I cannot imagine that hard rock music would do much to bring us closer to the Lord but listening to the fine music of choir would do much to help us. None of us is yet completely full of the Spirit so let us all open our hearts even more to God so that we may be more and more authentic followers of Jesus that others may see that following Jesus with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength is the only way worth living.
+ Dom Philip-James OSB