Living The Baptismal Life During The Pandemic
The letter that St. Paul wrote the churches in Galatia around 50 AD has lived on through the centuries. One particular segment of it contrasts the works that proceeds from sinful flesh, with the fruit that proceeds from the New Man, led by the Holy Spirit.
We might call the format a catalogue of vice and virtue. One that must always guide the baptized, but especially now when greater love and patience are called for. St. Paul writes:
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:16-26)
It is worth noting that the works of the flesh are "evident". We all know what they are. We all know that they are at the root of all of our sorrows. We all know that unbridled man revels in them. We all know that we cannot free ourselves from them. But what human wisdom cannot understand is the last line "those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
But even this is the gift of God! For it is a solemn and powerful warning that is meant to instill fear. Meant to stop sinful flesh dead in its tracks, because flesh knows no language except the language of fear. The more this this warning is made known among humanity the calmer the world becomes. It serves as suppressant in the same way that the nitrogen in our atmosphere suppresses fire.
Our atmosphere is approx. 79% nitrogen and 20% oxygen. Were those numbers to be reversed by a few percent points in favor of the oxygen the mere lighting of a match would be deadly. If tilted the other way fire would be impossible human life would become extinct.
And so be warned O Man that those who perform the works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God, but will end up with "their father the devil." (Jn 8:44) There is nothing worse than that!
On the other hand the fruit of the Spirit proceeds from life and bestows even greater and more glorious and glad life on those who are diligent to study and perform them! "22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."
We are those people who "belong to Christ Jesus". By our baptism into him we have "crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." And there is nothing better than that.
May we study and meditate on these virtues and let them be out guiding light as we walk in the light of Christ each day. We will be blessed by such baptismal living, and so will everyone about us. And speaking of spreading the gospel to others ... Nothing speaks louder of the beauty of Christ to others, so that they too might believe, than these Christian virtues.
Life is always a struggle, but in times of widespread stress let us be even more diligent to lead the way through this current crisis, and set the tone for whatever is on the other side.
The next few weeks will be difficult; separated from the holy altar which is our "dwelling place". But we will return soon enough. In the mean time let us turn our best efforts towards reading, study, meditation on the Holy Scriptures which are the very voice of God's love for us.
If you would like to borrow a hymnal from church so that you can sing the hymns and pray the many prayers there in, it can be arranged.
If you are ill, or distressed due to the current emergency call your pastor. He will visit you at home, or at the church, and provide you with prayers, absolution and private communion.
"Ask and it shall be given." (Mt. 7:7)
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