This is a blog that I post to several times a week although not necessarily daily. These reflections are triggered by the scripture found in the lectionary used by many Christian denominations. While I am part of the Catholic tradition, these posts are not --or rarely--sectarian. I try to put myself in the space of a of Jesus Christ and listen to words that come to me as I read and pray the scriptures. Each post also includes a photograph. These rarely have any connection to the content of the post but are simply pleasing images that I capture as I make my pilgrimage through life.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

It's that spirit and flesh thing again.

I say, then: live by the Spiritand you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit,and the Spirit against the flesh;these are opposed to each other,so that you may not do what you want.But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Galatians 5:16-18

Paul is again writing about the spirit and the flesh.  These are words that have acquired meanings which are not exactly what Paul meant.  "Flesh" has come to mean the body and thus by extension sexual and other pleasurable excesses.  The Roman church's preoccupation with sexual ethics and morality can be seen as an expression of this interpretation.  The "spirit," on the other hand, has come to be understood as the immaterial as though the true good is only what is not connected to the body in some way.  The Roman church's preoccupation with doctrinal orthodoxy can be seen as an expression of this interpretation.

Our ordinary experience, however, is that we are both spirit and flesh, body and soul, material and immaterial.  Surely the way of Christ cannot be one that requires us to deny a part of who we are.  I believe that Paul is trying to describe consciousness or awareness.  The consciousness which Paul calls "the flesh" is one that sees the world and other people as existing for me and my benefit.  Within this consciousness, my self interest apart from my inter-relationships with others is the highest good on which I base the choices in my life.

The consciousness that Paul calls "spirit" is one that sees the world and other people as expressions of the life and love of the Divine One.  It is the consciousness of St. Francis who saw the Divine One in everything and everyone, especially those overlooked and ignored by most people.  If I see the world and other people as expressions of the Divine One's life, I will see them and treat them as valuable and good in and of themselves.  I will see every thing and every person as things and persons to be loved, respected, and cherished, not things and persons to be used for my own ends, pleasure or ease.

Paul experienced this change of consciousness in many ways.  Perhaps he expressed it best when he wrote, "Now not I live but Christ lives in me."  This is the change in consciousness that we celebrate in baptism as an ongoing unfolding process in our lives.