Wednesday 22 May 2024

Spiritual Fruits

We are in the Octave of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, kick-started into life by the wondrous outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God, without whose presence the Church could not possibly fulfil her mission in the world. This is why at our baptism and then at our confirmation, we receive the gifts of the Spirit and also open ourselves to bearing the fruits of his presence within us. These fruits, St Paul teaches us (Galatians 5:22), are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. They are the hallmark of a Christian.

Developing a Christian character takes a lifetime of striving to exhibit the mind and heart of Jesus. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind”, Paul tells us. Our holiness is, of course, God’s gift to us, and not ours to him, and since we allow so many obstacles to get in the way of his work within us, our sanctification is a work in progress. This is quite a liberating thought, because it assures us that the work is not ours alone. God gives us grace, his life, his assistance to enable us to respond freely and lovingly to his will. When we entrust our lives to Our Lord, God’s Powerful Spiritpurifies us and empowers us to be his ambassadors, mediating his divine presence to others. In our Catholic Faith, we have been given a tremendous gift, and what is required of us is that we live it and share it with others. For this we need to cultivate those fruits of the Spirit, beginning with love, joy and peace…

Our Lord reminds us, “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit.” At our baptism, we were anointed with the oil of chrism, the same oil which is used for confirmation and the ordination of priests and bishops. It is a symbol of election, of having been called and chosen by God for work in his Church. This oil, which has been fragranced with balsam, is a reminder to us that a Christian is “the fragrance of Christ”, that people must know that we are disciples of Christ by what they hear us say and what they see us do. If we profess one standard with our lips and behave in quite another way, people will only point and shake their heads and say, “Spot the discrepancy!” Our Catholic mission is to spread the Good News of God’s merciful and just love and to help build a family of faith in Jesus Christ through Catholic worship, education, and charity.

Dorothy Day challenges us to examine our conscience to see whether we are bearing good or evil fruit. She writes, “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” A thought which I find somewhat challenging. Next Tuesday, we shall be celebrating together the transferred feast of our Holy Father St Philip, who, if we were obliged to choose just one example of a Christian soul aglow with the presence of the Spirit of God and whose life exemplified the flourishing of the spiritual fruits, would easily be the most likely contender.