Wednesday October 16, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Galatians 5:18-25) Gospel (St. Luke 11:42-46)
Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Galatians, continues along the same pattern that we have seen of this dichotomy between the law and the Spirit. And today he tells us what the works of the flesh are and what the works of the Spirit are. At the same time, we see Our Lord taking up the same point. He talks to the Pharisees and the lawyers about what it is that they are doing, and He tells the Pharisees, in essence, that they are condemned because they pay tithes on mint and rue and herbs, they look for seats in synagogues and greetings and all the different things, but they are failing in the love of God, they are failing to look at judgment, they are not looking at spiritual things - or the lawyers that make things difficult for others but will not lift a finger to help them. And so, again, we see that they are doing the works of the law but not of the Spirit. They are following the external things but not the internal.
What we need to be about, obviously, is obedience to God - but obedience out of love. Not just about following some sort of external guidelines, but rather, doing what is right because of the love for God. And so it is that we will be able to be obedient, to do the works, but at the same time to make sure we are doing things in the Spirit, to do the works of the Spirit.
Saint Paul tells us that we can tell when we have the Spirit because he says that those who have the Spirit will have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Now, if we see that we do not have all of these then we need to work at it. It is not just a matter of saying, "Well, I have to do it," because we cannot; it is the fruit of the Spirit. We are not going to be able to say, "From now on, I'm going to be patient. I've made my decision and that's the way it's going to be." It is not going to work because you are going to be immediately impatient because you are not being patient about your decision to be patient. We have to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us with these things, which means we have to quit trying to do it ourselves; otherwise, we become like the Pharisees: We are doing the externals and we are missing the internals, we are doing the works of the flesh but we are failing in the works of the Spirit. It is, therefore, the Spirit who has to work in us.
So we, first of all, have to ask Him, and then we have to get out of the way and let Him do what He wants to do. Now that means He is going to have to purify some things. It means He has to get out of the way anything which stands between us and God. It means He is going to have to put us through the ringer a little bit, and we do not like that because it hurts. Then we decide we maybe do not want to do the works of the Spirit and, therefore, the fruit of the Spirit does not come because we are not willing to do what God wants.
We need to be earnest about giving it all over to God - just letting go and giving it to the Lord. We have to cooperate, obviously - I am not talking about being a Quietist; that is a heresy - but rather, to give everything over to the Lord and let Him lead. We simply need to follow, but let the Holy Spirit do the work. That is why the Lord gave Him to us, so that He can live within us and He can work within us. He has been given to us. And so the Lord tells us that we need to be about focusing on judgment and love, we need to be about charity, lifting the finger to help others - a little bit more than a finger, I think the Lord would expect. And we need to be about the Holy Spirit.
And so, it is about trying to determine what is the Will of God. What is the movement of the Holy Spirit within our hearts? How is it that God wants us to act in this particular situation or that particular situation? Then we need to be obedient, to follow the movement of the Holy Spirit, to be obedient to His inspirations. And when we are, then we are going to look at all those fruits in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But if we are trying to do it ourselves, well, you can read the other list - you heard it all. When we look at that list we are going to see a lot of what happens when we try to do it our way instead of God's way. So the dichotomy is very clear. It is not just a matter of the empty works of the law; it is about doing it according to the way of self as opposed to the way of God. We have been given the Holy Spirit, and we need to follow the Holy Spirit.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.