Wednesday October 17 2012 Community Mass: Reflection by Fr. Michael U.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires”. If we live by the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit” (Gal 5:25).
My brothers and sisters these are Paul’s words, or antithesis between the works of the spirit and the works of the flesh, remotely addressed to the early Galatians Christian Community, but also proximately addressed to us on a day we come together to celebrate our traditional Wednesday Eucharist, during which our new faculty members will also make their profession of faith. Paul recommends that we walk by spirit (penuema, peneumati peripateite) and not by flesh (sach).
For Paul flesh is of course anything that takes us away from God. It is anything that distances us from God. It is anything that put a barrier between us and Jesus. It is anything that puts us at conflicts with the values of Jesus and of the teachings of His Church. While the spirit, peneuma, is anything that wins us the love Christ.
It is true that after Paul had brought the good news of Christ to Antioch, the home town of St. Ignatius of Antioch whose memorial we also celebrate today, a group of other false missionaries came behind Paul, in fact, from Jerusalem to Antioch, to confuse this faith community with a counter message that Jewish laws, particularly circumcision were still prerequisites for becoming an authentic Christian.
Paul uses this occasion to do what he knows best how to do- preach, defend the faith and write about Christ even to the point of martyrdom like St. Ignatius. Today’s scriptures are Paul’s clear response not only to these false missionaries but also to the neophyte Galatians Christian Community.
For Paul strict Mosaic laws like circumcision were obsolete, no longer necessary for becoming a true believer and a strong follower of Jesus. He rightly insists that When he proclaimed Christ crucified to them, the Galatians received the Spirit without observing the works of the Law. Since God had promised Abraham all the nations’ salvation and blessings to all men and women-Galatians church should therefore, watch out since the law, like Abraham’s type of circumcision was no longer necessary for us Christians. It will not necessarily help them overcome the type of the 15 vices, or works of the flesh listed in the scripture reading today. For instance, how would circumcision help us overcome selfishness, envy, lack of charity or drunkenness? In Christ Jesus what matters most is faith through love; Collective as well as personal faith. Interestingly and very soon, with the new translation of the Nicene Creed, our friends will say "I believe in one God.....
However, as we all know Law may prescribe certain forms of conduct and prohibit others but what matters most is the fruits of the spirit which cannot be legally enforced. Some one once said, “a vine does not produce grapes by Act of Parliament” rather they are the fruits of the vine’s own life, so the conduct which conforms to the standard of the Kingdom is the fruits of that divine nature which God gives as a result of what he has done for us in Christ, who is the true vine!
The fruits of this vine that divine nature is what Paul recommends for us today. They include love, that practical and ethical conduct, that ethical peripatew, or ethical halak- walking by faith, walking by joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self control and walking to crucify our flesh with love for Christ whom we are called imitate, as Paul and Ignatius of Antioch did!
We are told when Bishop Ignatius of Antioch was being tortured and brought to Rome for persecution, and to be eaten by the wild beasts at the Coliseum, his love for Christ and his neighbors were not shaken. In one of his letters to the Romans he wrote,
“From Syria even to Rome I fight with wild beasts, by land and sea, by night and by day, being bound amidst ten leopards, even a company of soldiers, who only grow worse when they are kindly treated.”
In another instance he wrote,
I am writing to all he Churches and I enjoin all that I am dying willingly for God’s sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg you do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching God.”
Each of us here, including our new faculty members are on a journey to reaching God; a journey of faith. And our particular route here at Sacred Heart School of Theology, a Catholic Major Seminary, I want to believe might be a bit different from that of, say, “Marquette University,” or that of the Milwaukee boy’s high school!
In our learning, formation, research, governing, administering- we want to continue walking by this spirit of =Love, Joy, Peace, No envy, rather Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Selflessness,Gentleness and Self-control, these are all fruits of the spirit which are already growing in our Seminary Community, and also a type exemplified by St. Paul himself and St. Ignatius of Antioch- Walking by faith! Walking by the Spirit!