As we celebrate the great Solemnity of Pentecost, perhaps we may want to examine, for our reflection, the alternative second reading, taken from Saint Paul’s epistle to the Galatians.

Most Scripture scholars would date this letter back to around 40-50 B.C., so it’s one of the earliest written documents we have in the New Testament. It’s written for the Christians of Asia Minor, most of whom were not Jewish, but gentiles, possibly even Celtic people, who had converted to the Way of the Lord Jesus.

Paul describes the Galatians as “stupid,” (Gal 3:1) for having been confused about Christ’s one sacrifice on the Cross. These Galatians were not as cultured as some of the other early Christian churches; they were mostly former military men.

What Saint Paul is trying to do with the Galatians is to teach them some basic virtues. What the apostle wants them to do is to have life in the Spirit, to have the Holy Spirit truly animate every aspect of their lives. This is how Paul says that they should be living, animated by the fruits of the Spirit:

(t)he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Paul wants us to grow in virtue! But how does the Holy Spirit strengthen us? Perhaps we might want to turn to the concept of the virtues. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1803, a virtue is “is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.”

The theological virtues all have God as the “origin, motive, and object” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1812) and they are the very bedrock of the Christian moral life. They are called theological virtues simply because they all come from God (in Greek, theos) and connect us back to God. In the Catechism, we read: “They (the theological virtues) are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being.” (CCC #1813.) These theological virtues are faith (CCC #1814), hope (CCC #1817) and charity (CCC #1822].

The human virtues, also called cardinal virtues, are what we hang our basic daily life as Christians around. They are prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. Every human being has these human virtues and every person is required to grow in these virtues so as to live a moral life.

Have we grown in the virtue of faith and opened our hearts and minds to the Truth who is God and what is expressed magisterially by his spotless Bride, the Church?

Have we made progress in the virtue of hope? Recognizing in all things that God is God, we are not, and thank God for that; relying not on ourselves and in our own merits, but in the grace of God?

Have we developed in the virtue of charity? It is needed above all in this unpleasant age of ad hominem attacks on social media.

Have we grown in the virtue of prudence this year? That virtue that Saint Thomas Aquinas describes as “right reason in action?” Prudence guides all the other virtues.

How about our growth in the virtue of justice this year? This virtue, according to the Catechism #1807, is the “constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor.” It is also called the virtue of religion because this virtue demands our giving to God the worship that he is due.

What about fortitude? That cardinal virtue that helps us persevere in our pursuit of the good?

Finally, what about that moral virtue of temperance? That great human virtue that allows us to control our inordinate attraction to pleasures and helps us to moderate and balance our use of the goods we have?

Pray for the growth of these virtues, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit!