Newman believed that “God has created me to do him some service… I
may not know exactly what it is in this life but I shall be told in the next.”
So the hope of knowing and doing that service in this life could come from
being in touch with the Holy Spirit. That’s why Paul admonishes the
Galatians and us, to be “guided by the Spirit,” to “live in the Spirit,”
(i.e. in his presence) and “also follow the Spirit” (i.e. be faithful to
his inspirations). This would make our odds better for knowing and
fulfilling God’s plan.
Next, Paul tells us that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified
their flesh with its passions and desires” thereby implementing the Spirit’s
program. This crucifixion is not to be enacted physically, like some
of the penitents who scourge their bodies to blood and fast from food until
damaging their health. The crucifixion is rather the killing of the
temptations and attractions to the “works of the flesh” that Paul lists.
In the process of crucifying the “works of the flesh” Paul would hope to
see us begin to experience the fruits of the Spirit; “love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” And
the more we exercise these virtues they should grow stronger helping us to
mirror our leader, Christ Jesus.
Unfortunately, as the atheist, Friedrich Nietzsche, once told a group of
Christians: “Yuk, you Christians disgust me, if you really are redeemed,
why don’t you look redeemed?” Perhaps he read Paul’s letter to the
Galatians and that’s why he expected to see the fruits of the Spirit more
evident in the lives of Christ’s followers.
From time to time, it’s a healthy practice to analyze how well we are manifesting
these fruits of the Spirit. Are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
self-control, etc. becoming more visible to our friends and neighbors?
This periodic reflection could give us a clue as to how well we are “living
in the Spirit” and “following the Spirit” and thereby fulfilling God’s service
in this life.