Brothers and sisters: If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy,drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
This passage in Paul’s letter to the Galatians has always presented a challenge for me. I tend to bristle at it because it seems to equate the world in which we live (flesh) with evil and the world of the Spirit (another world) with good. It seems like a false dualism. What ever happened to God looking upon the entirety of his creation and declaring it good? Whatever happened to finding God in all things? At the same time, I acknowledge that as Paul describes them, the works of the flesh are evil and the fruits of the Spirit are good.
Maybe the valuable lesson for me in this reading is to acknowledge and recognize the existence and effects of evil. I do tend to keep my focus on our loving God to the exclusion of seeing evil in the world and in my own life. Ignatius has us pray about evil and the work of Satan extensively in the first week of the Spiritual Exercises and then again in the meditation on the Two Standards during the second week of prayer.
Pope Francis, as a true son of Ignatius, has repeatedly reminded us of the existence of Satan and his works of evil. Do not underestimate your enemy and for heaven’s sake, don’t deny his existence.
—David McNulty works for the Midwest Jesuits. Dave and his wife Judy are grandparents of six.
Lord, as we reflect on Pope Francis’ insights into the Spirit of Evil, heighten our sensibilities to temptation and grant us the confidence to move forward in your protection and love.
“The temptation of the devil has three characteristics and we need to learn about them in order not to fall into the trap. What does Satan do to distance us from the path of Jesus? Firstly, his temptation begins gradually but grows and is always growing. Secondly, it grows and infects another person, it spreads to another and seeks to be part of the community. And in the end, in order to calm the soul, it justifies itself. It grows, it spreads and it justifies itself.”