Life in the flesh or life in the Spirit?

Do we live according to the flesh, or according to the Spirit? and how could we discern this?


Occasion: Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

You can find the full readings here. This Lectio is based on the Epistle, Romans 8:9, 11-13.


Brothers and sisters:
You are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Consequently, brothers and sisters,
we are not debtors to the flesh,
to live according to the flesh.
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die,
but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body,
you will live.

Stand-out words

flesh, Spirit, dwells, debtors


This excerpt comes from St. Paul’s exposition in Romans of the relationship between law, sin, and grace. These include the passages where St. Paul points out that sin was at work in the world before God gave Moses the Law; that we were dead because of sin; that sin is only accounted in the presence of Law; that the Law cannot give life, only grace can; that the flesh is hostile to God and concerns itself with death; that those who life in the flesh cannot please God.┬áIt would be a mistake to think too deeply of it without keeping that context in mind.

So, how do we live? Do we live according to the flesh, or according to the spirit? Do we seek out rules to follow, identifying a metric of “acceptability” by barely meeting the minimum standards for some distant, lawyerly judge? or do we offer our bodies as a spiritual sacrifice, looking for opportunities to receive and share God’s grace, to please the one with whose complete self-giving we have fallen desperately in love?

And how could we discern this, anyway? While St. Paul does not provide precise guidelines here, he offers a few in the Epistle to the Galatians. Inasmuch as the two treat of similar themes, it seems reasonable to reproduce that here: Continue reading “Life in the flesh or life in the Spirit?”