Everyone knows that fruit is good for you. What I’m talking about, though, are fruits of the Holy Spirit! How many times have we wondered, “Am I doing God’s will? Am I on the right track with regard to God?” How can we discern these types of questions? Well, we can start by focusing on Galatians 5;22-23, which lists the fruits of the Holy Spirit. If our lives are characterized by those nine things, then we can rest assured that the Holy Spirit is operating through us. If not, then not.
Here’s what St. Paul says in Galatians about it: “In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
Now, let’s think about each of these fruits.
First, and probably most obvious, is Love. What is love, though? Love is willing the good of the other, as other. Period. All too often, people in our society really don’t know what love is. They equate it with mere emotion. That’s not it. Or some may have an attitude of “You wash my back, I’ll wash yours.” Or I’ll love you, if you love me. No! Those are just clever ways of being self-interested. Real love pulls us out of the black hole of our own ego-centric lives, in such a way as we live for the other.
The second fruit of the Holy Spirit is Joy. We’re not talking about giddiness or goose pimples, as some folks mistakenly think. We’re talking about true, inner joy, which is very closely related to the fruit we’ll talk about next, peace. But the joy I’m talking about is that deep, deep connection to God in the very depths of our soul! If we have that, then we have true joy. It doesn’t matter whether we’re young or old, sick or healthy, successful or not, wealthy or poor. If we have true joy, we can deal with anything that comes up in our lives and take it in stride.
The third fruit of the Holy Spirit is Peace. Normally, in the Bible, this word is presented as the Hebrew word shalom. This should not be confused with the absence of war or strife. No. The true peace we’re talking about here is a sort of trust in God that is in balance with everything else in our lives. If we trust God, then anything that happens is with at least the tacit approval of God, for our own good. And we may not know on this side of eternity what that good may be, but we have faith in God that this is absolutely so.
The fourth fruit of the Holy Spirit is Patience. The Greek word used is makrothumia, which is more related to our concept of “long suffering.” Every person, sooner or later, will suffer something, either physical, emotional, or mental. We can rail against it, lamenting “Oh, why me?” Or “When will this agony end?” Or…we can accept this suffering as a gift from God that is designed in some way to strengthen us spiritually. I recall the story of a young apprentice goldsmith. He watched the master goldsmith purifying gold one day. He would put it into a crucible and crank the heat up as high as it would go. The gold would melt and the impurities would slowly rise to the surface, where he would skim them off and discard them. The young apprentice asked, “Master, how do you know when the gold is finally purified?” The old man looked at him, smiled, and said, “When I can look into the molten gold, and clearly see my own reflection, I know it is done.” God does the same with us! He allows us to be put into the crucible of problems and pain, in order to purify us that we may look to the Father like His Son.
The fifth fruit of the Holy Spirit is Kindness. In Greek, old wine was called chrestos which meant that it was “mellow” or “smooth.” Christ used this word in referring to his yoke that which was easy (Matt 11:30). That is to say, it did not chafe, it was well fitting and accommodated to the wearer. So kindness here refers to an attitude that goes beyond mere justice or what is required to a something wider and more accommodating. Here is a Spirit-produced goodness which meets the needs of others and avoids harshness.
The sixth fruit of the Holy Spirit is Generosity. Those who have this gift become generous. They become what is called “gifting.” And this generosity goes beyond what would be required by justice. It is similar to kindness, but it is more associated with money and things than with our attitude toward others.
The seventh fruit of the Holy Spirit is Faithfulness. This one is sometimes called Fidelity, or in Greek pistis. This one means being trustworthy, being faithful and reliable. In the Bible the word is more commonly used in a nominative form simply to mean “faith,” that is, the act of believing in God. By extension it can mean the quality of being faithful. The connection between the two concepts can include the fact that if one believes in God they will tend to be more trustworthy and reliable since their faith imbues them with a sense that God is watching and they are accountable. In our day and time, this one is very often one of the harder ones to live.
The eighth fruit of the Holy Spirit is Gentleness. The Greek word for this one is praotes. Basically, it means to be submissive to God and to be humble enough to be taught by God. Toward others, it means to be considerate. Another common way of translating this word in English is “meekness.” Aristotle defined meekness (πραΰτης ) as the mean between being too angry and not being angry enough. There is a place and a need for anger. Not all anger is sinful. It is right to be angry over injustice, for example. The meek person has authority over their anger.
The ninth fruit of the Holy Spirit is Self-control. The Greek word for this one is egkrateia. This fruit or virtue was understood in Greek of one who had mastered their love and desire of pleasure. There is a place in life for pleasures and desires. Without them we would perish. Since the fall of man however, our desires are often inordinate and excessive. There is need for the virtue of self mastery that moderates and regulates them.
Now all this sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? How can we get these gifts of the Holy Spirit? Can we do A, B, and C, and get the Holy Spirit? No. That’s not how the Holy Spirit works. The Holy Spirit is more like the wind, going where He will. We cannot command or “trick” the Holy Spirit. So, how do we get the Holy Spirit?
There is a prayer that always works, every time. Whether we’re young or old, healthy or sick, rich or poor, etc. It always works. So what is it?! Veni Sancte Spiritus or “Come, Holy Spirit!” We invite the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, and in His time, He will.