Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
The fruit St. Paul speaks of here today is nothing less than the fruit of Great and Holy Pentecost in our lives. And so, we continue today the theme begun on the Feast of Great and Holy Pentecost, that is to say, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, “the Lord, the Giver of Life” (Nicene Creed), the Paraclete, the Comforter or Advocate, promised by Jesus Whom the Father would send in the Name of His Son (Jn. 14:15-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15), fell upon the Church there in Jerusalem like a mighty rushing wind, filling the whole place and those gathered therein (Ac. 2:1-47). And from that day, the Church has been and is a Spirit-filled, Spirit-bred, Spirit-led people. Without the Holy Spirit, the Church and her baptized are like fish out of water. The Spirit of God is the very air we breathe, the incense of Heaven and the fragrance of the Kingdom of God. And so, it is for very good reason that St. Paul elsewhere exhorts us who “have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come,” not to backslide and crucify the Son of God afresh, but to “be filled with the Holy Spirit,” not just once but again and again and again (Ep. 5:18; Hb. 6:4-12; 10:26-39). It is, therefore, incumbent upon us who have been baptized and chrismated with the Holy Spirit, not to “quench the Spirit” we receive here in the Food from Heaven, the Body and Blood of the Master Himself (1 Th. 5:19). We live and we die by the Spirit of God!
It has been from the Day of Pentecost and continues to be all about the Holy Spirit Who, by the gracious intent and mercy of God, dwells within each of us in the Church’s womb. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you,” St. Paul asks, “Whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cr. 6:19-20). Apparently, there were (and maybe still are) those Christians who did not know, and so they maligned and abused their physical bodies in ways that disgraced and dishonored the God Who had created them in His image to bear His likeness. St. Paul enumerates an extensive list of what he calls “the works of the flesh” in contradistinction to “the fruit of the Holy Spirit.” The “flesh” here is not the physical self – the body – but is rather the sinful self waging war against God. “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh,” Paul says, “and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Ga. 5:17, 19). Does that sound familiar? I know it does for me. It’s a Romans 7 experience! The Spirit of God cannot occupy a vessel given or devoted to the lusts of the flesh for the Spirit of God is sent to purge and to cleanse that which is impure and unclean from sin’s power. The “works of the flesh” are products of our own sinful manufacturing while the “fruit of the Spirit” is precisely that – “of the Spirit,” from Him when we cooperate with Him in our lives. “[T]hose who practice [the works of the flesh],” says Paul, “will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (Ga. 5:17-21).
On another occasion once, our Lord told a parable of a variety of soils. I’m sure you remember it. There were four kinds soil or ground ranging from infertile and barren to very fertile and fruit bearing. The sower went out to sow, Jesus says, in each of the fields of soil, scattering or broadcasting his seed to and fro, hither and yon. Three of those soils failed to produce what was sown, or, if they did produce anything at all, it was stunted and short-lived. “’But others [of the seed sown] fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundred-fold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’” (Mt. 13:3-9, 18-23).
This parable found in St. Matthew’s Gospel is worthy of our exploration and reflection and I would urge you to go home and contemplate its richness and its depth. What interests us here, however, is the rich and fertile soil that bore fruit of the seed sown in it. It is this rich and good earth that received the precious seed and by the standing miracle of God the seed sprouts and grows to the amazement of the farmer although the farmer sleeps by night and rises by day. Seemingly, without help, “’the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head’” (Mk. 4:26-29). But, do you remember just how productive the rich and fertile soil was? How much fruit did it bear? “’[S]ome a hundred-fold, some sixty, some thirty.’” The good and rich and fertile soil varied in its fruitfulness, didn’t it? In some cases, the yield was 100% while in others it was 60% and still others 30%. The harvest of the sown seed differed from field to field of good soil.
Beloved, St. Paul calls us “God’s field” (1 Cr. 3:9-17). And as “God’s field,” the seed of the Word of God and His Holy Spirit has been sown in us, in our hearts and souls by the Sower Who is Jesus Christ, the Word of the Father made flesh. Sacred Scripture tells us that we are to “lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save our souls” (Jm. 1:21). We are to “receive with meekness [God’s] implanted Word” which means we need to open our hearts and minds and souls to it, cultivate it in us and nourish it with prayer and silence and meditation and repentance, and we are to cooperate with it, which means, we’re cooperating with God. How do we do that? James tells us. By being “doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving [ourselves]” (Jm. 1:22). Or, to use St. Paul’s words, we are to crucify the passions and desires that dwell in our hearts and souls and minds that lead us away from God and obstruct the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in us. The Apostle further elaborates on just what these passions and desires look like in us as the works of the flesh so that we can be very clear: “extra-marital affairs, pre-marital sex, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry (greed), sorcery, outbursts of wrath (rage), selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like” (1 Cr. 6:9-10; Ga. 5:19-21; Ep. 5:3-5). This is by no means an exhaustive nor conclusive list.
Brothers and sisters, you’ve heard it said here before on Pentecost and I’ll say it again: you and I – we’re all called to sainthood, to acquire the Holy Spirit. “Walk in the Spirit,” Paul says, “and you shall not fulfill the lust [passions and desires] of the flesh” (Ga. 5:16). “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” We do this by remaining in the Church, the Body of Jesus Christ, Who is, as He says, “the true Vine” through Whom the precious life of the Holy Spirit flows to us, as sap through the vine. If we cut ourselves off from His Church, we cut ourselves off from Him (Ep. 1:22-23; 5:22-33). “’As a branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. . . . He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit’” (Jn. 15:1-17). Christ and His Church is the source of the fruit of the Holy Spirit St. Paul speaks of: “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” This, too, is not an exhaustive nor conclusive list. Not all of us, like the different soils, will produce 100%. This belongs, in my opinion, to those saints glorified by the Church as a witness and testimony to this reality, like St. Herman of Alaska here commemorated today. But, we will – you and I – nonetheless produce to varying degrees the spiritual fruit promised that will glorify our God and reveal Him in us, as we make our way deeper into the Mystery of the Church and the Mystery of the Church makes its way deeper into us, purifying us and restoring in us the divine image of God and His holiness (Ep. 4:24; Co. 3:10). “Walk in the Spirit,” beloved, cultivate His presence in your lives and give place to Him Who dwells in you by Baptism.
Allow me to conclude with this thought from St. Seraphim of Sarov. He invites us to ponder this reality we have spoken of today. “[T]he true aim of the Christian life,” he says,
consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ’s sake [as good and necessary as they be], they are only means of acquiring the Spirit of God. . . . [O]nly good deeds done for Christ’s sake brings us the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Pray, then, my brothers and sisters, that you and I may acquire the Holy Spirit of God, and so become the saints God has created us to be.
O heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of blessings, and Giver of Life: Come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
1 Cr. 3:9-17 // Ga. 5:22-6:2Mt. 14:22-34 // Lk. 6:17-23