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Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Gal. 5:18-25 & Luke 11:42-46

How do we know that the Holy Spirit is working in us rather than the spirit of the age or the spirit of ourselves? Saint Paul in today's First Reading gives us a near fool-proof guide to determining whether the Spirit is at work in our lives.

The measure of our being Spirit-filled has little to do with devout feelings or a home filled with religious objects. It has to do with our behaviour. We know we are led by the Spirit when we are avoiding the works of the flesh. Paul enumerates a litany of behaviours that show a person to be immersed in the works of unredeemed flesh rather than filled with the Spirit. Notice he mentions fornication, which some no longer consider to be a sin, at the head of the list.

He also describes the fruits of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us which are not just interior states but exterior behaviours. To embrace the Cross of Christ is not simply to wear a crucifix. It is to crucify our evil desires, our self-serving interests and arrogance, and accept Jesus as Lord of our life.

The test of devotion is not more devotion but how we interact with others. If Christ is not manifest in how we behave, then He is not alive in our hearts. To claim to live in the Spirit is to follow the Spirit in our behaviour. We cannot see into another's heart nor into our own heart. Our capacity for self-deception is enormous. But we can look at how we behave. The pattern of our behaviour allows us to see the soul turned inside out and the truth of our heart, much as Jesus uses behaviour to reveal the truth about the Pharisees.

When Jesus condemned the Pharisees for tilling "mint and rue and every herb" and neglecting the weightier matters of the law which were "justice and the love of God" He was bringing a fundamental truth into focus. It is not obedience to the letter of the law, but the heart of the law that is most pleasing to God. How easy it can be to overlook this important distinction even today! How easy it is to do things out of habit instead of doing them for love of the Lord. But how little joy do we experience when our religious and moral observances flow from legalism or routine?

In their desire to do all the right things the Pharisees, whom Jesus was addressing, had turned their attention toward themselves and their observances. They sought to build up an image of righteousness before others - and before God - that was based on such small issues as whether they had given the correct amount of the most insignificant herbs. All the time that they sought to demonstrate their obedience to laws and rituals, they were cutting themselves off from God and storing up judgement for themselves. Even worse, their example kept others from coming to know God personally.

The two greatest commandments show what God desires: to love Him with all of our being, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Both commands demonstrate God's heart and His plan for us. More than anything else, God wants us to have a living relationship with Him. As we draw near to Him and ask Him to imprint His character upon us, He will give us the wisdom to know how to obey Him.

God can move us and raise our hearts. We all yearn to love God and to know Him as our Father. Have you ever noticed how your heart burns when the Lord reveals to you something of Who He is? Let us open our lives to the Lord to take on the character of Jesus our Saviour.

Heavenly Father, help us to see the treasure of the Good News and to realise that by following Jesus, the Supreme Good News, we shall find salvation.

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