I would like us to reflect on the 1st Reading from Galatians that we have just heard. The theme of the 1st Reading is the action of the Holy Spirit. The passage uses vocabulary like: “led by the Spirit”, “live by the Spirit” and “guided by the Spirit”. What do these expressions mean?
In spite of what we see in paintings, the Holy Spirit is not a dove. The Holy Spirit is God. Through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we receive the Holy Spirit. Through these 2 sacraments, God’s own divine life dwells in us. This indwelling presence gives us personal power and strength beyond all telling.
The key message is that the Holy Spirit is active and real in our world and in each of us. This Holy Spirit can make all things new. If we let him, the Holy Spirit can transform or renew every aspect of our lives. Today’s liturgy encourages us to ask ourselves these questions: Do we allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit? Do we allow him to play a role in our lives?
The challenge of Baptism and Confirmation for us is to have the courage to ask the Holy Spirit for his help and guidance, particularly when we are confused, worried or troubled. That’s the reason for which Baptism and Confirmation are only administered once in a person’s lifetime. These sacraments leave a mark on the soul that can never be erased. Therefore, the graces given at Baptism and Confirmation are permanent. They are available on a daily basis just for the asking. The invitation of the 1st Reading is to call upon the Holy Spirit every day to guide us in the practical situations of our lives.
How can we tell if we are being led and guided by the Spirit? The answer to this question is the same as the answer to the question: “How can I tell if this tree is a pear tree or an apple tree?” A pear tree produces pears. An apple tree produces apples. The tree is identifiable by the fruit it produces.
Likewise, we can say we are led and guided by the Spirit if our lives produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The 1st Reading identifies 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The Church has traditionally taught that there are 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit. Here are the 3 the 1st Reading did not mention: goodness, modesty and chastity.
As St. Paul explains, whenever our thoughts, words and actions show forth these 12 fruits, we are showing that we belong to Jesus Christ. We are witnessing that Jesus’ way of living for others is guiding our lives. Whenever we do the opposite; whenever we lack compassion towards the plight of others rather than showing kindness; whenever we promote division and conflict rather than work for peace; whenever we harbor lingering resentments rather than showing love, we are living a self-indulgent and self-centered life that shows no concern for the needs of others.
St. Paul refers to this life style as “the works of the flesh”. “The flesh” does not refer to the body. For St. Paul, the “flesh” refers to a mind-set, to life style choices, to a way of living that says, “My life is about me”. However, the indwelling Spirit gives us the power and strength to crucify the flesh with its selfish passions and desires. The natural outcome of surrendering to the Spirit in this way is that our lives are now ready to bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit. We now can adopt a way of living that says, “My life is not about me”. Whenever that happens, the Kingdom of God is alive in our hearts.
The invitation today is to take an honest inventory of our lives. Each of us is a mixture of a saint and a sinner. First, let us consider: Where do I find evidence of the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit in my life? We celebrate and affirm those areas. We are not the authors of any Christian characteristics within us. Christian character and virtue are produced by the Holy Spirit. So, let us thank God for the presence of his grace in those areas of our lives.
Second, let us consider: What thoughts, words and actions are works of the flesh in my life? What attachments, attitudes or pleasures need to be crucified so that I can become a more faithful disciple of Jesus? We ask for God’s divine assistance in those areas.
The Church teaches that it is the Holy Spirit who descends on the altar during the Mass and transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus. This same Holy Spirit lives inside us. Since the Holy Spirit can do that, imagine what can happen if we allow him to direct our thoughts, words and actions in our daily lives. If we allow ourselves to be led by the power and strength of the Holy Spirit, imagine how the reign of God can thrive in us!
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
October 14, 2020