Cycle B | 20/05/18
Acts 2: 1-11
Gal. 5: 16-25
John 20: 19-23
INTRODUCTION: For This Pentecost Sunday, I chose for our 2nd Reading Chapter 5 of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians — one of the choices among the readings during Confirmations. In this passage, Paul lays down the works of the flesh as against the works of the spirit.
(1) N.T. Wrights, in his rather long biography of St. Paul, opines that Galatians is his very first Letter written, not I Thessalonian as we have been taught before in Theology. In this Chapter, Paul tells the Galatians that the spirit is at war with the flesh. We have to be careful here lest we fall into a dualist; either. . . or. . .; Platonic or puritanical reading of this text.
Paul does not mean that the material world is bad and the non- material is good. Jews, as Paul was first of all rather than Roman, do not think in a dualist vein. So what does Paul here mean by flesh and spirit? The work/path of the flesh here stands for those attitudes and actions that stand against the way of love as the works of the spirit. In other words, the contrast here is between Sin and Love (Charity), not flesh and spirit in a Platonic or Puritanical understanding.
(2) Works of the flesh are enumerated. Paul’s list groups the works of the flesh into only two. The first are what might be called sexual sins: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, lust, drinking bouts, orgies. The second group are what we might call social sins: the acts and attitudes that divide us–idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy. Don’t believe those who claim as from the Bible that sexual sins are not important.
Though on matters of sex, there are those who exaggerate as if there are only sex sins and there is no other. Our sexual life can be so disordered precisely in the measure that they move outside the ambit of love, if for example it is done only for pleasure like in pornography or using another person for sexual gratification as in human trafficking.
Take a good look on ourselves how much time we spend in thinking ill of others alienating him from us. When the Holy Spirit came into the lives of Jesus’ followers who heard the Good News in their own languages, it brought them together. Origen of Alexandria says “Ubi divisio, ibi peccatum.” Are there people I am not able to forgive?
(3) Works of the Spirit are signs that the Spirit operates in a person. What are those signs? Love (agape) is the great enduring sign of the Holy Spirit in you. To love is to will the good of the other. From love flows joy, happiness which all people want. It comes and goes, real not evanescent or transient joy.
What is the consequences of joy? Peace (contentment) and Patience (waiting for the other, not on your terms). Love shows itself in simple kindness like saying “How are you? Holding a door for a guest,” Kindness is the same as generosity, faithfulness, and gentleness. The last fruit of love is self-control. Those who lack self-control are pre-occupied with their own needs.
CONCLUSION: Paul concludes the passage thus: “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with their passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.” All who receive the Holy Spirit must nail to the Cross all that is not love in them. Take to heart this challenge of Paul to us this Pentecost Day!
Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches