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Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (Memorial)
He is like a tree planted near running water. (Psalm 1:3)
Weeping willow trees are known for their aggressive root system. These trees love water! The roots often spread much wider than the tree itself and burrow deep into the ground to find water sources. That’s why they flourish next to a creek or river.
This is the image the psalmist uses to describe the blessings God has for us. When we follow the law of the Lord, we are like a fruitful tree planted by the water. St. Paul uses a similar image when he urges us to “live by the Spirit” so that we can bear “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 22). In effect, we need to be as aggressive as that willow tree as we send our roots deep and wide in search of the Holy Spirit’s living water.
This may seem a little pie-in-the-sky, but Paul is very practical in today’s first reading. He gives us a graphic list of the “works of the flesh” that stand in contrast to the far more attractive fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19). We have all experienced the selfishness, anger, rivalry, and immorality that Paul calls the works of the flesh. We have also experienced many of the fruits of the Spirit, even if only in passing. The good news that Paul shares is that we can turn from the impulses of our flesh—“crucify” them—and reach toward the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:24). Even better, we don’t have to reach too far; the Spirit is already in us!
So how can we stretch our roots toward that living water? By being clear and decisive. For instance, when you hear the voice of your conscience telling you to bite your tongue instead of engaging in gossip, don’t brush it off. If a Scripture passage or prayer catches your attention at Mass, linger in your pew and ask the Holy Spirit more about it. Start your day by bringing your chores and appointments to the Lord and asking for his direction or wisdom.
As you reach deeply toward the Holy Spirit, you will bear more fruit. God promises, and you can always trust him.
“Holy Spirit, I want to receive your refreshing water. I want to be that tree that bears your good fruit. Come and fill me up.”
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