Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
Catholic Christians in the United States carry with them the effects of the Puritans who helped found this country of ours. As a result, whenever we hear the word "flesh," our minds tend to take us in a specific direction. When St. Paul talks about "flesh," he comes from a completely different background and means something else entirely.
Take a look at the list that St. Paul writes when he speaks of the deeds of the flesh: immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. Yes, he includes the traditional Puritan viewpoint of sexual sins. However, he also includes idolatrous actions, social sins, and intemperate acts. In fact, St. Paul would include anything that leads us away from God as an act of the flesh. On the other hand, when he lists the deeds of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control), he speaks of the acts that draw us closer to God and one another. In fact "unity" or "communion" is the principal work of the Holy Spirit, both union with God and with one another.
This is reflected in the story of Pentecost. St. Luke tells us that everyone who heard the apostles preaching in Jerusalem heard them in his/her own language. This is a direct reference to a story in the Book of Genesis, the story of the Tower of Babel. You will remember that as a result of their pride, God confounded the people who were building this tower and separated them by various languages, making it impossible for them to continue because they could no longer communicate. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, St. Luke tells us that language was no longer a barrier, and, as a result, many came to believe in the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit brought together those who had been separated. Jesus also wishes that we should find this unity, that all will be one just as he and the Father are one.
Unfortunately, we tend to spend a great deal of our time dwelling on the things that make us different from one another rather than on those things that unite us. As we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, let us remember that the Holy Spirit came to bring us together with both God and one another.