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To live by the Spirit
May 14, 2012
By Fr. Tom Balluff, St. Mary’s of Czestochowa Church, Delano

The fruits of the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians, are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. These fruits tell us when the Holy Spirit is alive and active in our lives and in our hearts.

Last year, I was honored to be asked to celebrate a healing Mass at St. Peter’s in North St. Paul. It was a very powerful Mass, as all Masses are. This particular Mass, the prayers seemed to be especially alive and deeply moving.

In part of my homily, I asked everyone present who would like to be prayed over after Mass to come down the center aisle and stand in front of the altar, making a line. I told them that in their hearts, when I would place my hands over their heads, to simply repeat a silent yes to whatever the Holy Spirit wanted to do for them.

I told everyone that I would pray to the Holy Spirit that each person would open their hearts to receive God’s love, his peace, and his joy. I would pray for their deeper healing physically, certainly, but even more importantly, for spiritual healing and reconciliation. I would ask for each person a deeper sense of confidence and trust in God, that the Holy Spirit might bestow on each one of them the great gift of courage and strength, to give them insight and inspiration, to guide and protect them.

Many of those who came forward to be prayed over were slain in the spirit, as we call it. Now, it’s important to know that those who fell backward, I did not touch at all. It was those who did not go over in the spirit that I would finish with a touch on the top of their heads. This is kind of what I would call a charismatic experience, and is not for everyone. Although, if one is open to it, it can be a very healing and an empowering experience of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives.

In the Sacrament of Confirmation, we are given the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are courage, counsel, understanding, wisdom, reverence, piety, and a kind of wonder and awe, or fear of the Lord (which is respect for God). But how do we know, or discern what is truly of God from what is not?

St. Paul gives us the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I believe them to be so important as we learn to know when God is present and when he is not. We could even use this list, I think, for an examination of conscience before going to Confession, asking the question, “when have I chosen, shared, and recognized these fruits with those around me?”

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we are to live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. St. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, speaks very clearly of the works of the flesh. He says that if we are led by the Spirit, then we will live a life of grace and goodness. But the works of the flesh are “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities . . . strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.” St. Paul says that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

This Pentecost, we celebrate the great gift Jesus has sent to us in the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity. He is God himself, given to us in a very special way to help us to know what God is asking of each of us.

We can overcome the desire of the flesh in order to become a new person. And because of this transforming power of God, we, like the apostles and disciples before us, can now reach people everywhere.

This coming of the Holy Spirit over the apostles at Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, in tongues of fire, reaches across every boundary of language that once was imposed on us at the Tower of Babel. We are now freed to move forward to share, with an alive and animating spirit, as the apostles and disciples did before us.

The Holy Spirit empowered the apostles and disciples in their times, and now us, the modern day apostles and disciples, faithful followers of Jesus, to continue the work that he did while here on earth. We, as disciples, are called to proclaim the Word and by our actions, the Good News of the risen Lord. Having heard of how God’s Spirit was given to the first followers of Jesus, we accept our commission to keep the Holy Spirit alive in the world today.