14th Sunday after Pentecost: Being Led By The Spirit
In Galatians 5:1, Paul says that Christ came to set us free. So we should never permit anyone to bring us into bondage to laws again. The Church must never become a slave to the small “l” laws or what the Catholic Church calls small “t” traditions that are made. At the same time, we must not use our freedom as an excuse to sin against Christ and His authority within the Church. (Galatians 5:13).
The word “tradition” actually means handing down something to another person.
Scripture testifies to this meaning of Catholic Tradition as the normal mode of transmitting the Faith:
“Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.” (2 Thess 2:15) “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you ….” (1 Cor 11:23) “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received….” (1 Cor 15:3) “…for I know whom I have believed, [i.e., Jesus], and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” (2 Tim 1:11-14) “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim 2:1-2) “…it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 1:3)
This is the most basic meaning of Catholic Tradition: it is the true Faith itself, given to the Apostles by Christ and faithfully transmitted to each new generation. We often write Tradition, with a capital ‘T’, to mean Sacred Tradition. This Catholic Tradition is different from those traditions (small ‘t’) that are merely customs, and which are not part of Divine Revelation.
And so when I say, “The Church must never become a slave to the small “t” traditions or the small “l” laws made.”, I am referring to Catholic traditions and or laws that are merely customs, and which are not part of divine Revelation.
In the beginning of the Church, there was a faction within the Church that desired all Christians to live out the small “t” traditions or the small “l” laws given to Moses by God. I am not referring to the 10 commandments. What I am referring to, as an example, are things like the dietary law, in which certain animals, fish and insects were considered unclean and were not to be eaten. Even Saint Peter fell for it until God spoke to him and corrected his thinking. (see Acts 10:9-16 and Acts 11:4-9)
Now Many, who call themselves Catholic, have misunderstood grace and Christian freedom and ended up worse than being under the laws- they live as slaves to their flesh. The only right way to be free from the laws is to be led by the Holy Spirit. Otherwise we will sink lower than the law and live in sin. But if we walk according to the leading of the Spirit, then we will not descend to the level of the flesh. Only such believers can claim to be free from the law. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh....But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law.” (Gal. 5:16, 18).
So there are three levels at which one who calls themselves a Catholic can live:
1. Led by the Spirit; or
2. Led by the law (the customs which are not part of divine Revelation); or
3. Led by the flesh (the lowest level of living).
Look at these three levels of life as the three floors of a building. If you are not living on the third floor (led by the Spirit), and you destroy the second floor (led by the law), you will descend to the first floor (led by the flesh). If you say, "I am not led by the law because Jesus has abolished the law," then you better be led by the Spirit. Otherwise, you will descend to the level of the flesh. This is what has happened to multitudes of those who call themselves Christian. They have read in Galatians that we are not under the law. But they do not live according to the leading of the Spirit. The result is they live according to the flesh. How do Christians who say they are under grace live according to the lusts of their flesh? Because they have thrown away the law. It is only "But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law." (Gal. 5:18). The law is necessary for those who do not want to be led by the Holy Spirit.
The message in Galatians is not "Throw away the law." It is, "Throw away the law only when you have come to a life in the Spirit."
The Holy Spirit then describes what life in the flesh is like (Gal. 5:19-21): “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.”
Are these found only among unbelievers? No. Even so-called "believers" indulge in these sins. Why? Because they threw away the Law before entering into a life in the Holy Spirit. “They who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:21). On the other hand, those who are led by the Spirit will bring forth in their lives the fruit of "charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity (kindness), goodness, longanimity, (faithfulness) " (Gal. 5:22,-23). If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.