Today's first reading.
I was looking forward to read what Pope Francis had to say in his homily on the readings at Mass today. The readings are always the focus of my daily prayer, as are the psalms from morning prayer. The prayer of the Church, the daily readings, are for me what the Spirit says to the Churches every morning ... the expression light and life come to mind. Without prayer we have neither.
St. Paul sounded rather severe when he addressed the Galatians as stupid, I may be wrong, but I think it was more out of exasperation with the 'rigorists' ... which is why I couldn't wait to read what the Pope had to say.
Liberty of spirit.
It is such a gift, nothing, no one, no ideology, can hold you back. Which is why devotion to the Holy Spirit - prayer - is so important, so essential. Our soul can rejoice and say with Christ, "My song is of mercy and justice; I sing to you, O Lord. I will walk - run - in the way of perfection. O when, Lord, will you come?" The Holy Spirit enables us to walk with blameless heart, to avert our eyes from whatever is base. To hate the ways of the crooked, to avoid the traps laid by the false hearted ... to look to the faithful and dwell in union with them ... with the Lord. Friendship with the Lord is the way of perfection.
The readings of the day speak of the Holy Spirit, the “great gift of the Father,” the power that allows the Church to go forth courageously even to the ends of the earth. The Spirit, Pope Francis said, “is the protagonist of this ‘going forward’ of the Church.” Without the Spirit, the Church would be shut up within itself, fearful.
The Pope pointed out three “attitudes” that we can have with regard to the Spirit. The first is that which Saint Paul rebuked in the Galatians: the belief that one can be justified through the Law, and not by Jesus, “who makes sense of the Law.” And so they were “too rigid.” They are the same kind of people who attack Jesus and who the Lord called hypocrites:
“And this attachment to the Law ignores the Holy Spirit. It does not grant that the redemption of Christ goes forward with the Holy Spirit. It ignores that: there is only the Law. It is true that there are the Commandments and we have to follow the Commandments; but always through the grace of this great gift that the Father has given us, His Son, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. And so the Law is understood. But don’t reduce the Spirit and the Son to the Law. This was the problem of these people: they ignored the Holy Spirit, and they did not know to go forward. Closed, closed in precepts: we have to do this, we have to do that. At times, it can happen that we fall into this temptation.”
The Doctors of the Law, the Pope said, “bewitch with ideas”:
“Because ideologies bewitch; and so Paul begins here: ‘O stupid Galatians, who has bewitched you?’ Those who preach with ideologies: It’s absolutely just! They bewitch: It’s all clear. But look, the revelation is not clear, eh? The revelation of God is discovered more and more each day, it is always on a journey. Is it clear? Yes! It is crystal clear! It is Him, but we have to discover it along the way. And those who believe they have the whole truth in their hands are not [just] ignorant ... Paul says more: [you are] ‘stupid’, because you have allowed yourselves to be bewitched.” - Finish reading here.
The Pope knows ... he totally knows this. I examine myself and see how often I have allowed myself to be bewitched - by rigid adherence to my own 'rule of life', as well as by the glamour of evil, by new ideologies, by fashionable identities, by elitist-exclusive-snobbism, while considering everyone else inferior.
"The man of proud looks and haughty heart I will never endure."
It is not just rigid religious groups who constrict the way of perfection, every faction has its rules of conduct which aspirants need to conform to, or they are not 'in'. The result is as St. Paul challenged the Galatians: "After beginning with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?"
"Acquisition of love,
the Father and the Son,
alert me to be
ever aware of thy indwelling!"
Great is the power of prayer, and it brings most of all the Spirit of God, and is most easily practiced by everyone. We shall be happy indeed if the Lord God finds us watchful and filled with the gifts of His Holy Spirit. Then we may boldly hope "to be caught up . . . in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thess. 4:17) Who is coming "with great power and glory" (Mk. 13:26) "to judge the living and the dead" (1 Peter 4:5) and "to reward every man according to his works" (Matt. 16:27). - St. Seraphim of Sarov