Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before:those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5: 16-26
Reflection – ‘By their fruits you shall know them’ has to be one of the most practical precepts of the whole of the Gospels, in the sense of providing a standard by which almost anything can be measured and evaluated in a simple, almost obvious way.
What are the fruits here? This is the question that always needs to be asked when we are trying to figure out if we’re on the right track or not in life. And it’s not exactly like the fruits of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit are really, really similar—like only a certified expert can tell the difference between, say, ‘enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels’ and ‘peace, love, kindness, patience’. ‘Fornication, impurity, licentiousness’ do not look all that much like ‘faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’.
I don’t want to talk much about fornication, etc., today, though—my series on Humanae Vitae has provided me ample space to give my thoughts on matters of sexual morality and chastity, and will continue to do so when I get back to it. It does seem to me that the world of social media, and particularly the Catholic blogosphere, could do well to reflect on the works of the flesh of ‘strife, quarrels, anger, dissensions, factions’ as opposed to the works of the Spirit of ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.’
As Pentecost draws near, and we all are supposed to be yearning for, welcoming, praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives, it is worth examining our consciences precisely along those lines. I try, generally, to keep up with what’s going on in the Catholic blog world, without being obsessed about it, and certainly without feeling like I have to get involved in it (I frankly loathe the band wagon phenomenon where ‘x’ says something or ‘y’ happens, and then everyone has to write about x or y and what they think about it, and blah, blah, blah).
And… ummm. Kindness? Patience? Generosity, as in assuming the best of people who you may not agree with? Gentleness, as in not perpetually coming out with all guns blazing towards those whose positions you may not like? Love, as in… well, surely to God we know what it means to love one another, don’t we? If we don’t, why on earth are we holding forth publicly as Catholic writers on the Internet?
These are in scant evidence, often, in the Catholic blogosphere, and this is not good. I’m not going to give lots of examples because then I would be singling this blogger or that writer out, and it’s not one or two writers, and it’s not ‘the conservatives’ or ‘the liberals’ or ‘the trads’, as far as I can see. It’s fairly endemic. ‘See how those Christians love one another’, the pagans used to say in the days of the Roman Empire, and the pagans in the Roman Empire mostly became Christians. I don’t think we’re converting too many pagans these days with our example of mutual love, forbearance, and kindliness.
Evangelization, folks – it is the word of the day, if not the century. And we evangelize above all by example and by presenting a vision of what Christianity is that is actually attractive to people. Shrill denunciations, mockery, scorn, expressions of outright hatred and vituperation for those in the Church with whom we disagree—all of this is profoundly anti-evangelical.
We can make our points and express our opinions without all of that, you know. Anyhow, perhaps this feast of Pentecost would be a good time to resolve to hang up the quarrels, envy, factions, dissensions, strife, and enmities, and pray for the Spirit to show us the path of kindness, love, patience, peace, self-control, and gentleness.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.