This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God. The previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 59th step:
(59) Not to fulfil the desires of the flesh (cf Gal 5:16).
This counsel of St. Benedict’s is a quote from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh,” (Galatians 5:16). St. Paul saw the flesh and the Spirit at war with one another and one would suspect that so would St. Benedict. The flesh for Paul was an obstacle to being the person God had created us to be.
But less we project all of our own ideas about what the “flesh” means, let us look at what St. Paul means when he speaks about the “flesh”: “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” (Galatians 5:19-21). If one peruses the list one will find that the “desires” of the flesh are all the ways that our desires can go mad and lead to our own destruction.
Contrast the works of the flesh with the desires of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” (Galatians 5:22). Notice the first three are all what the “desires'” of the flesh are motivated by, the desire to experience love, joy and peace, but of course they never lead to that, so we should strive to live by the Spirit.
How can w do it? St. Paul tells us, “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit,” (Galatians 5: 24-25). We need to subjugate ourselves to Jesus and to trust in the Holy Spirit at every moment of everyday, so that we seek to fulfill the will of God and not of our flesh.
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