Saturday, 26 May 2012

If we live by the Spirit, let us conduct our lives according to the Spirit

In this well-known passage from his letter to the Galatians, where he contrasts a manner of life according to the desires of the flesh and one that is in accord with the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul teaches that the Spirit is the guiding principle of the moral life of a Christian. The psalm which opens the Book of Psalms describes the two and sharply different roads a person may take in life, one according to God’s commandments, and the other according to the evil inclinations of the human heart. Paul employs a similar structure in his teaching to the Galatians.

The marvellous roll call of gifts which the Spirit confers, love, joy, peace etc, throw into sharp relief the ongoing reality of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. The experience of the first Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit continue to be replicated whenever a person is baptised in Christ, once crucified and now gloriously alive.

The Paraclete, whom Jesus promises he will send from the Father, will reveal the full truth about Jesus. The Spirit will bear witness to him by leading them into a fuller understanding of all that Jesus taught them. He will anoint them with God’s truth (1 Jn 2:27) and preserve them from error and false doctrine. The apostles too, in conjunction with the Holy Sprit, must witness to Jesus for they have been his companions from the very outset. They will have the charism as authoritative interpreters of Jesus.

In the atmospheric setting of the Upper Room the disciples were in no position to comprehend all that they were hearing from Jesus. That deeper insight into the truth of Jesus would only follow afterwards, in the light of his resurrection and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit. The words of Jesus here, referring to the Father, are of a piece with the theology of the fourth Gospel. He never acts independently of his Father and all that the Father has is his as well. Therefore the work of the Holy Spirit will, in effect, be a continuation of his work on earth, only now through the Church.

Picture: Pentecost (detail) El Greco
Text: You Will Be My Witnesses by Bishop Michael Campbell OSA © ST PAULS