Paul continues that a person is free when he is led by the Spirit. The Spirit enables him to overcome the inclinations of the flesh. When you are not led by the Spirit, the sensible appetites are allowed to have full reign. When you live for the flesh, you live for yourself - what you want, when you want it and how you want it. All of that is governed by love of self, giving full reign to the selfishness inflicted on us by Original Sin. Everything which stems from that disordered love for self is called “a work of the flesh.
”This doesn’t mean just simply impurity. It also means any kind of intemperance or sins against fraternal charity. Often you can find clues for some kind of impurity if the subject is also abusing the liturgy.
Living by the Spirit, one is no longer merely human, but found also in Christ, in the Divine. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are visible.
Recent days have made me most grateful for the Church’s teaching on ex opere operato. This is a little Latin expression which means “from the work worked.” This basically means that the liturgy is a bearer of divine grace and not dependent on the priest being in the state of grace. If the recipient of the sacrament is well disposed toward God’s grace, then God’s grace is abundant. A priest in the state of mortal sin does the work, but cannot be well-disposed toward grace and so he receives nothing for his work.
I remember when a priest who once served as associate at the parish where I was pastor was revealed as having abused and forced himself on several young men. Many people began to wonder whether their baptisms, confessions, and weddings were valid. I was grateful that the Church was clear on this topic. They had no need to worry.
I am not here to judge (Cardinal) McCarrick. That will be up to God at this point. But he has been a vehicle of grace even if he was never able to benefit or experience that grace. In his many years as priest, bishop and cardinal, I am sure he said Mass countless times, heard confessions, ministered at baptisms and witnessed marriages. For anyone who participated and was disposed toward the grace of the event, I am sure that grace was present. I am not talking about the memories of such events, such memories can take many forms. Go ahead and treasure the pictures, but in prayer, ask that you may receive the grace of such encounters, not with Cardinal McCarrick, but with the Lord.
Now there are several things we may disregard: his preaching, his writings and any counseling or advice he may have given. These things are not covered by ex opere operato. Only the liturgy and the sacraments have such a guarantee.
Pray for Cardinal McCarrick. If he did not receive the proper formation as a young man to realize the gifts of the Spirit and that habitual living in Christ and the Spirit is a sure antidote for living by the flesh, I am sure such a conversion will be difficult in his eighties, especially if he is off licking his wounds and feeling misunderstood and unappreciated.
“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit” (Gal 5:24-25) It really is up to us to respond to grace and to seek the holiness to which we have been called.