May 20, 2018
The second reading for Pentecost Sunday is so important for our spiritual discernment that I want to reprint some of it for our continued reflection (Galatians 5: 16-25—Jerusalem Bible):
“If you are guided by the Spirit, you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit, the Spirit is totally against such a thing, and it is precisely because the two are so opposed that you do not always carry out your good intentions…
When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious:
Outbursts of fury
Acts of selfishness
Orgies and the like.
I warn you as I warned you before that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. What the Spirit brings is very different:
…You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit’s lead.”
Brothers and sisters, we live in a spiritual war-zone. Each of us is in fact on the front lines of the battle, with the enemy of our soul tempting us on one side and the Lord and his armies on the other. The battle rages both within and around us! In this Sunday’s second reading from Galatians, Saint Paul gives us this checklist to help us discern whose side of the battle we are fighting on: am I standing in the territory of the enemy at this moment, in this decision, or am I a force for good in the power of the Holy Spirit?
Even Saint Paul acknowledged that none of us wins every battle. This is why we rely on the mercy of Christ, who forgives our sins. Many people don’t even realize that life is really a spiritual battle zone! Whether we realize it or not, every decision and action of ours will bear fruit ultimately on the side of self-indulgence, or on the side of the Holy Spirit. Selfishness, angry outbursts, impurity, impatience… none of this comes from the Holy Spirit! When we see these types of fruits being manifested in our lives, it means that something needs to be corrected in our spiritual life.
This is exactly why Saint Paul gives us these two lists, because we need a constant reminder to help us discern regularly whose side we are fighting on, God’s or his enemy! The fruits of our decisions and actions will tell the real story. In order to see this, however, we will want to become more spiritually aware by examining our lives and actual decisions on a daily basis.
In many ways each church, like Saint Edward, is on the front lines of a kind of spiritual battle for souls that is taking place throughout the world. We come to Mass and participate in other activities here in order to be nourished in our faith, fed by the Eucharist and the other sacraments, strengthened by our fellowship with others, and to give to our neighbor of what we have by our presence and by our gifts, sacrifices and finances.
Sometimes we let Christ in through the front door (by praying, coming to church or doing good works, for example), but at the same time, we open a window and let the enemy in too (watching pornography and impurity in the media and internet and self-centered behaviors at home, school and work, for example).
The question to ask ourselves is this: if I am continually falling in certain areas of self-indulgence, am I really at war with these sinful choices? What must I do to overcome them? Am I really avoiding the situations that cause me to fall into sin? Am I making a good confession on a regular basis? Is any form of fasting (food, media) a part of my regime? Do I really make God and prayer a priority in my life? By following the Holy Spirit’s lead, we can already begin to live in heaven, no matter how much suffering we may be experiencing, because to live in heaven is to do the will of God.