Do not grieve the Spirit

It was the last day of term at school, and we were in high spirits. As the buses arrived at different times some of us were there a good twenty minutes before the school day began. For some reason we thought it would be fun to push each other down the cellar steps. All was going swimmingly until one individual tumbled down and dislocated his shoulder. We offenders were hauled before the headmaster, given a dressing down and suspended from school for two days.

I then had to return home and confess to my parents what I had done. I was not punished, but I can still recall their disappointment in my behaviour. The feeling that I had let them down was more crushing than any punishment they could have given me. I don’t think they told my grandmother, in whose eyes I could do no wrong, who would have been even more upset that I could get myself into trouble.

St Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians (4.30), that we should not grieve the Holy Spirit by our bad behaviour. Grief is usually with associated mourning, lamenting the loss of someone dear. And so this would suggest that something has died within us, that makes the Spirit grieve. We are indeed less of a person when our behaviour deteriorates. We might disappoint ourselves as well as others, we may damage our relationships.

To hold a grudge, can be very destructive to ourselves and others. The grudge has no place in a Christian soul, because it allows no forgiveness, it does not look for a reason to pardon. The grudge may be held because we are unwilling to speak honestly and frankly. 

St Paul says, ‘Do not lose your temper’. To do so is to lose control of oneself, to give way to the fire of rage. It is extremely unpleasant to be on the receiving end of an angry outburst. And having lost our temper, regardless of whether it is justified or not, we will have to apologize anyway.

As for ‘calling each other names’ that sounds a rather wet translation of slander or evil-speaking. Slander is that destructive way of talking that seeks to damage a reputation, that spreads harmful gossip.

However 'spitefulness' is a good translation for 'malice'. To bear malice is to have bad intentions, to wish somebody ill. To be spiteful is to be driven by hatred and has no place in the Christian soul. A spiteful person wishes to destroy and not build up.

Were we, each  of us, to look through this list of St Paul’s, can we see if we have fallen into any of these sins. Have we grieved the Holy Spirit?

The way is clearly marked out for us to avoid grieving the Holy Spirit. We must be like God, and to know what God is like we look at Christ. As Christians we are called to imitate him, to aspire to model our behaviour on his.

In the exhibition in this church on Edith Cavell,  at the foot of each panel a quotation from The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. This book was one of her dearest possessions and was delivered to her in prison. It was given to her cousin Eddy after she had marked out the dates of her imprisonment, arrest and trial and even her execution. The texts are those which she singled out. Among them is: 

Cast your heart firmly on the Lord and fear not the judgement of men when conscience testifies of your dutifulness and innocence.

This must have strengthened her at the time of her trial. Edith made no desperate attempt to save herself, but imitated  the behaviour of Jesus at his trial.

Jesus said that we will all be taught by God, and to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to Jesus.

St John Vianney, whose feast we celebrated this week wrote that man has a noble task, that of prayer and love. To pray and to love is the happiness of man on earth.  He said that as a Christian’s treasure is not on earth, but in heaven, our thoughts should turn to where our treasure is. He wrote that prayer is an intimate union with God; the soul and God are like two pieces of wax moulded into one. When we are truly united with him we are better able to be tender-hearted and forgiving, seeking to love life in peaceful harmony with our fellow men and women. And the Holy Spirit, that gentle dove, will have no cause for grief.