We are presented with two different lists in today’s first reading. The first list is rather disquieting. St. Paul’s listing of the works of the flesh pretty much covers the roots of most of the problems in human interrelations – then and now. When we are tempted to think that we have progressed as human beings so far beyond the ancient world, we need only to reflect on this list to say that humans are still tempted by the very same weaknesses in human nature.
The second list, the fruits of the Spirit of love, provide us with some comfort. What happens when we ponder that list? Doesn’t our heart rate slow down, our mind and body become more relaxed? Don’t we feel quietly happy? The other list is hard and tense and divisive, whereas these words are like balm. What would happen to our minds, our bodies and our daily routines if we began each day, or reflected during the day, on patience, kindness, gentleness, etc.?
We are drawing close to the end of St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians. As is usually the case in his writings, St. Paul tends to become very practical and specific as he closes a letter. While the body of the letter may have waxed eloquent and philosophical, his closings focus on the application of the principles about which he has been writing. In this case, he is contrasting the works of the flesh with the works of the Spirit; namely, those things which draw us away from God and those things that draw us close to God.
Throughout the letter to the Galatians, St. Paul has been urging us to break the chains of slavery to sin and the Law and to live in the freedom of the Spirit. Unfortunately, many in today's world would claim that freedom becomes license to do whatever we wish, including those things that draw us away from God. In St. Paul's thinking, such behavior only enslaves us. It is the Spirit and the works of the Spirit which set us truly free – free to love, free to be kind, free to be gentle, free to be at peace. Just like Paul told the early Christians, we must take steps in our lives to follow the Spirit in order to truly live in the Spirit. If we do that, the fruit of the Spirit will grow in us more and more.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator