The Answer to All Our Bad Behaviors

The Answer to All Our Bad Behaviors May 13, 2015
Holy Spirit Detail from “Chair of Saint Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica“, 03 05 2008
Sergey Smirnov, CCA-SA, Wikimedia Commons.
Guest post by Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouvé, FSP

Do you struggle with something that you wish you could be rid of? All of us do. We have our own special forms of behavior that don’t help us but hurt us. The other day I was reading Galatians and this line stopped me cold: “This is what I mean, walk by the Spirit and there is no likelihood of carrying out the craving of the flesh.” (5:16). *

That’s the answer to all our bad behaviors: Walk by the Spirit. St. Paul doesn’t tell us to sign up for a self-improvement course or to develop our own program of action. Those things may help, and by all means go for them if you so desire. But the way we can change and grow spiritually is to walk by the Spirit. If we do, we simply are not going to carry out the craving of the flesh.

In other words, the Holy Spirit is the source of grace and strength. The Spirit acts in us and as St. Paul will soon add, we need to let ourselves be led by the Spirit and to live in the Spirit. Of course this is not to deny our free will or that we need to cooperate with grace. But instead of thinking it’s all up to us, we have the Holy Spirit to help us.

Paul then goes on to contrast the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. He lists 15 works of the flesh. For Paul, the flesh (sarx in Greek) is unredeemed humanity, that is, humanity without Christ. The “works of the flesh” include sexual immorality but go far beyond that. In fact, Paul only mentions three sexual sins (fornication, immorality, sensuality). Most of the other sins have to do with offenses against the community, like anger, jealousy, hostility, strife, selfish ambitions, etc.

But then he mentions the fruit of the Spirit, manifested in nine ways: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.

If we focus on those things we can go a long way on our walk in the Spirit. Next Friday (May 15) the novena for Pentecost begins. I hope to post something each day at my blog Thomas for Today on the nine ways we can show forth the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, along with a prayer.

On Pentecost may each one of us receive a more abundant outpouring of grace and the Holy Spirit!

*The translation is from Frank Matera’s commentary on Galatians in the Sacra Pagina  series published by Liturgical Press. It’s a great commentary.


SrLorraine_SmSr. Marianne Lorraine Trouvé, FSP is a Daughter of St. Paul who currently works on the editorial staff of Pauline Books and MediaShe has a master’s degree in theology from the University of Dayton, with a concentration in Marian studies (The Marian Research Institute at UD). She has also edited several books on Theology of the Body, including the new translation of Pope John Paul’s talks that was done by Michael Waldstein. She is also very interested in Saint Thomas Aquinas and has been working her way through the Summa for several years now, one article at a time. Besides prayer and work, she likes to write, garden, do logic puzzles and take walks with friends. She blogs at Thomas for Today.

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  • Justin

    Sister, thank you so much for posting this! As someone who is currently fighting with trying to quit smoking, this is very relevant. I have never done a novena before, but would like to pursue this one! I will follow your posts on Thomas for Today with great interest!

    • Sr Marianne Lorraine Trouve

      Glad to hear that, Justin! I will add your intention to the others I have for the novena.

    • Truth Seeker

      If novenas or any other prayers really worked then doctors would recommend it to their patients.

      • Justin

        Doctors are very wise, but I would not base the entirety of my definition what “works” on what they advocate at any single moment in history, especially in matters of spiritual health, morals, and behavior (as an anthro major, I saw a lot of turn of the century medical texts- it gives you some perspective). Now, if you took the meaning of the article to be that we eschew meds and pray away all disease, I think you should go back and re-read it (and you might do a little research into what Catholics believe!). The article is discussing prayer and behaviors. In that vein, I would point out those who do advise such things as AA (surrender to a higher power, etc). There are physicians who recommend prayer, btw, and will even pray with you on request, but not generally in the exercise of their employment- it’s not their area of expertise, nor what their patients have come to them for.

        • Sr Marianne Lorraine Trouve

          Yes, Justin, that’s exactly right. As Catholics we believe that God created the world and put in it things that can help us even medically. Prayer and natural means of health are not opposed but can work together. They both come under God’s providence.

  • Luis Gutierrez

    Let us pray for a a new Pentecost that will enable the Church to overcome the patriarchal culture of male hegemony. Let us pray for the ordination of women to the priesthood, for the glory of God and the good of souls — especially the souls of men who conflate “machismo” with the Catholic faith.

    • Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble

      Luis, This is the third off topic comment you have made about women’s ordination on Sr. Lorraine’s posts. Please keep your comments on topic.

      • Luis Gutierrez

        OK, no problem

    • Sr Marianne Lorraine Trouve

      Luis, as Sr Theresa has noted, we have already discussed this in previous posts and I see no point in debating it further.

      • Luis Gutierrez

        OK, prayers!