In our 1st reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, St. Stephen accuses the people, elders and scribes of being “stiff-necked” and opposed to the Holy Spirit.
This description of being “stiff-necked” is used in several places in the Bible to describe someone who is stubborn or inflexible. It would have been very familiar to early farming communities who used oxen to plow fields. As the oxen were pulling the plow, the farmer used a long spike to “steer” them by poking the oxen in the neck. If an ox was hard to control or stubborn it was called “stiff-necked”.
In our society, this trait of stubbornness is often paired with determination when describing someone who is especially focused on a goal in their life. This may be a good thing but the challenge we have throughout our lives is making sure the goal we focus on is the right one.
· So how do we determine if we are focusing on the right goal?
· How do we know if we are “opposed to the Holy Spirit” like stiff-necked people in our 1st reading?
As it turns out, we are told in Chapter 5 of St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians about the fruits of the Holy Spirit. If we are open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives, we will experience these fruits: love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. A lack of these in our life may indicate our goals are out of synch.
This coronavirus experience has certainly caused us to look at life in a different way. As we consider what comes next, let us pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us direct our goals and our lives every day.
-Deacon Steve Whiteman