Pentecost, Year B – Works of the Flesh, Fruits of the Spirit

In today’s gospel (second option), Jesus speaks of the Advocate whom He will send to us from the Father.  This advocate is “the Spirit of Truth that proceeds from the Father.”  The Advocate of whom Jesus speaks is the Holy Spirit.

Today we celebrate Pentecost as the day when Jesus fulfills the promise He made in today’s gospel (second option).  We can count on Jesus’ promises.

The Holy Spirit “came from the sky.”  The Holy Spirit comes from the Heavens as it proceeds from the Father, sent by the Son. 

It came as “a strong driving wind.”  Remember how God breathed life into Adam (Genesis 2:7).  The Holy Spirit comes to bring us to new life in Christ.

The Holy Spirit came down as “tongues of fireto rest on each one of them.”  The first disciples received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  We receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism and are sealed with the same Spirit at Confirmation.  The Holy Spirit is offered to people of every nation.

The Holy Spirit comes to “renew the face of the earth.

In the second reading (second option), Paul invites us to “live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.”  We live in a continuing struggle between what God calls us to in the Spirit and the desires of the flesh.  We know what the Holy Spirit offers is good.  It’s better than good but our flesh desires immediate pleasure.  As Christians we are called to sacrifice the immediate pleasures of the flesh for the greater glory of Heaven.

Yet we struggle.

Paul lists many of the works of the flesh, “immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.”

We don’t all share all the same struggles.  Which of these are difficult temptations for you?  Two of the most prevalent today are impurity and lust.  The world thinks there is nothing wrong with sex outside marriage.  It can even encourage it.  The world thinks if it feels good, it must be good.  Pornography is readily available.  What’s the problem?  The problem is that this demeans the human person.  Humans are not just objects for pleasure.  We must not look at other people simply as a means for sexual pleasure.  We need to see the person and treat them as a person, not as an object.  We must also not allow ourselves to be used by others as means for their pleasure (see my website “Catholic Morality and Sexuality”).

Paul then speaks of idolatry.  In the Old Testament the sin of idolatry generally referred to making objects to be worship like God.  The greatest example of this is the Golden Calf in Exodus 32.  Today idolatry involves what we make our greatest priority.  Is money your greatest priority?  Then, it is your idol, your false god.  Is sexual pleasure your greatest priority?  Then, it is your idol, your false god.  How about power, pride,…?  Whatever is most important to you can become an idol to you, a false god.

Then there is sorcery.  Deuteronomy 18:9-14 prohibits sorcery.  Do you consult sorcerers and fortune-tellers?  Reiki?  Crystals?  All these things go against life in the Spirit (see my blog articles “More on Fortune Telling and Reik in the Bible, “Crystals, Exorcisms, and New Age,” and “New Age and Mindfulness”  for more on these practices and why they go against our Catholic faith). 

Then there are hatreds, rivalry, and factions.  Beyond the obvious sin of anger here, I think of the polarization we see today.  People are not dialoging.  People are aligning by what they think with no foundation for what they declare to be their “truth.”  We ask the Holy Spirit to lead us to be one in doing the Father’s Will. 

Tied to the polarization we see are dissensions.  I fear the Church is on the verge, if not already, in some schisms.  We must listen to the Holy Spirit, trusting in Jesus’ promise that the Spirit will guide us to all truth.

From the works of the flesh, Paul turns to the fruits of the Spirit, which he lists as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  These fruits of the spirit come when we allow God to renew us in the Holy Spirit.  The evils of our sins are replaced by these fruits when we allow the Holy Spirit to be in charge of our lives.

We seek love but without the Holy Spirit we don’t really know what love is.  There are different forms of love.  We are not called to marry everyone we love.  There is love with family.  There is love in deep friendship.  We are even called to love strangers.  We do not love these in all the same way.

We seek joy.  Physical pleasure is simply physical pleasure.  Joy goes much deeper.

We seek peace.  We seek earthly peace but the peace that is a fruit of the Spirit is our Lord dwelling in our hearts.  The fruits of the Spirit are more.  Which one do you most need?

Trust in God and pray, “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.


Fr. Jeff


  1. Carol H Clendenin on 05/24/2024 at 6:01 am

    Your concern Fr. Jeff that the Church is in some schisms bothers me too. I am trying to see beyond the polarization within myself on some difficult issues we face as a society and as members of the Church. We must communicate with each other in a respectful manner even when we don’t agree, and this can be hard work. We need the Holy Spirit! I take some solace from a recent book review of First Belong to God-On Retreat with Pope Francis by Austen Ivereigh-Francis insists on threefold belonging: first to God, then to creation and then to each other, our fellow human beings. The reviewer goes on to say that many of our current ills stem from our sense of aloneness and the myth of self-sufficiency, and the consequent fears, anxiety and distrust of God when these defenses inevitably fail. Something to consider here it seems to me.

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