Friday, May 25, 2012

Our students returned from their five-day backpacking trip this afternoon. I was worried that the constant rainy weather in the mountains of northern New Jersey would have dampened their spirits, but all the kids I spoke to said “It was good.” I always ask two questions of the returning backpackers as they’re sitting on the sidewalk with their packs waiting for their ride.

 “What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get home?” “Take a shower!” “Take a shower!” “Take as shower – I stink.” That’s a pretty common answer. But I also picked up a new one, from a student who, mind you, hadn’t seen a toilet or a shower in five days, had slept on the ground four nights in a row, ate lukewarm supper cooked on a Coleman stove. “First thing I’m gonna do is turn on my computer and check my mail!” Well, I had no trouble believing him. First things first, I say!

Did your hiking group (a team of 8 students) get along well on the hike? I was so gratified to hear “Yeah, we got along good.” “Yup. We had a good time.” Every kid I asked answered, “Yeah, we got along fine!” Kids are usually honest – if some team member had gone after another with a tent pole I’d have heard about it when I asked my Question #2. . When I heard these answers I though of meditation I’d read just this morning in the May 21 issue of America Magazine, by Peter Feldmeier. Here are a couple of excerpts from the section where he’s speaking about the second reading for this coming Sunday, the Solemnity of Pentecost.


Paul contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. Here flesh (sarx) refers not to the body (soma) but to the soul as dominated by the passions. Paul’s list of these works includes everything from sexual immorality to idolatry to conflict among people. The issue of conflict dominates: “enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy....” Contrast this with the fruits of the Spirit, which include “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Notice that Paul is contrasting works of the flesh with fruits of the Spirit. That is, these latter qualities are evidence of the already active Spirit within. Paul’s aim is not to prescribe virtuous activities to perform. Rather, he is pointing out what the Spirit looks like. 

I liked his insight, “the issue of conflict dominates.” I’ve seen some backpacking teams that looked like they were right out of Paul’s letter, spending their time on the Appalachian Trail involved in “strife, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, and envy.” So when I heard so many returning hikers say that they felt they’d gotten along well, I though of Feldmeier’s comment, contrast [Paul’s list of vices] with the fruits of the Spirit, which include “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”


It sounds like a lot of our students got a preview of Pentecost! Good Job! This weekend we pray that these high school freshman may continue for the rest of their lives letting the Holy Spirit work through them to make our poor divided world a little bit more like the Kingdom that Jesus came to offer us, a Kingdom characterized by the Holy Spirits’ Pentecost gifts of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

                                       VENI, CREATOR SPIRITUS 

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