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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fruits of the Spirit - A Journey

Fruits of the Spirit
A Journey

The goal of a virtuous life
is to become like God

Saint Gregory of Nyssa, De beatitudinibus
The first step toward canonization is determination that a candidate processes Heroic Virtue. What is Heroic Virtue?  It is the possession of the moral Human Virtues exercised at an extraordinary level whenever called upon with ease.  It is the possession of the moral Theological Virtues practiced to an eminent degree. It is the willingness to be sustained by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and to be moved by the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.   Heroic Virtue is to live a life that is no longer merely human but in a sense also divine.  How does one achieve this state of Heroic Virtue?  "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

"A virtue 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….

Human Virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, and habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith.  They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good….

Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called “cardinal”; all the others are grouped around them.  They are:  prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance…

It is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance.  Christ’s gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues…

Human Virtues are rooted in the Theological Virtues, which adapt man’s faculties for participation in the divine nature…the Theological Virtues are:  faith, hope and charity [love]…The fruits of charity [love] are joy, peace, and mercy…

The moral life of Christians is sustained by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit…The seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord…they complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them.  They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations…

The Fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church #1803 -1832)   

More modern editions of the Bible list nine Fruits of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23 New American Bible)

“Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.…So by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:17-20)

Throughout the Bible, righteous men are equated to trees which bear good fruit.  In the 5th Chapter of the Letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul illustrates the visible characteristics of a true Christian as The Fruit of the Spirit.
Listen here to Fr. Robert Barron beautifully describe the first three Fruits of the Spirit, Love, Joy and Peace in his Sermon 73 : The Holy Trinity : The Fruits of the Spirit.  I will attempt to describe the rest below.

Patience enables us to endure hardship, by conforming to God’s will in our life without sadness or resentment. "You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised." (Romans 10:36)

There are three degrees of achieving the "Fruit of the Spirit of Patience":  accepting hardship without interior complaint, using hardship to grow in virtue, and finally to desire hardship out of love for God, accept them with a spiritual joy and offer up ones hardship to God. Patience is a form of the cardinal virtue of fortitude, the courage to do good despite obstacles. 
Kindness is the quality of understanding, or empathy for others who are in need.  Kindness is acting for the good of people regardless of what they do to you.  When the "Fruit of Kindness" is at work in one's soul, one seeks to become adaptable to the needs of those who are around him, doing for others without expecting anything in return. 
"Learn to savor how good the Lord is; happy are those who take refuge in him." (Psalm 34:9) Similar to kindness, but with an emphasis on moral values and genuineness, is goodness.  Having the “Fruit of the Spirit of Goodness" is a quality which seeks to imitate God's Goodness.  “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good.” (Luke 6:45)
The "Fruit of the Spirit of Generosity" is well illustrated in the life of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta who lived her life for others. "She begged for the poor.  She fed the poor.  She clothed the poor. She lavished her love on the sick, the deformed, and the dying - holding in her arms the men, women, and children who no one else would touch.  She defended the right to life of the littlest and weakest among us, and she did it all while owning nothing herself, giving every gift she received to those most desperately in need."  (Courageous Generosity: A Bible Study for Women on Heroic Sacrifice by Stacy Mitch) 

Gentleness may also be described as meekness, a characteristic so important that it was the third to be mentioned by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.  "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5) Meek does not mean weak for Jesus who is far from weak comforts us in Matthew 11:29 with, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves." To live the "Fruit of the Spirit of Gentleness" is by the grace of the Holy Spirit to have a disposition that is even-tempered, balanced and unpretentiously pardon injuries and correct faults.  "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
It is not always easy to be faithful.  "Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)  "I believe in God: this first affirmation of the Apostles' Creed is also the most fundamental...The faithful first profess their belief in God."  (CCC #199) But before we can boast about our faithfulness, know that "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is a gift from God." (Ephesians 2:8) Living the "Fruit of the Spirit in Faithfullness" is opening one's life to the free gift of faith that has been measured out and apportioned to each according to God's will.
Modesty moderates our presentation to others.  “Purity requires modesty…Modesty protects the intimate center of the person.  It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden….It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons…Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love.  It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships…The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another.  Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man.”  Catechism of the Catholic Church #2521 – 2524)
Self-control or "temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods.  It ensures the will's mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion...In the New Testament it is called "moderation" or "sobriety."  We ought "to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world." (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1809)  

To live well under the guidance of the "Fruit of the Spirit of Self-Control," "is nothing other than to love God with all one's heart, with all one's soul and with all one's efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted through temperance. No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude).  It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence)."  (Saint Augustine, De moribus eccl) 
Chastity comes under the cardinal virtue of temperance, and is opposed to the capital sin of lust.  The practice of chastity is to control of our thoughts and discipline our senses, especially the sense of sight. “Chastity is a moral virtue…a gift from God, a grace, a fruit of spiritual effort.  The Holy Spirit enables one whom the water of Baptism has regenerated to imitate the purity of Christ…All the baptized are called to chastity.  The Christian has ‘put on Christ,’ the model for all chastity.  All Christ’s faithful are called to lead a chaste life in keeping with their particular states of life….Married people are called to live conjugal chastity; others practice chastity in continence.” (CCC #2345-2349) 
Developing the "Fruits of the Spirit" is a lifelong journey.  It is where our soul collaborates with the gift of grace bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit. Few may achieve the totality of these “Fruits” here on earth, but we may all commence in the journey.  Which begins when we submit to desire to walk in God’s will.  “God is Love,” (1 John 4:8) and the Fruits of God’s Spirit of Love is joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.  “If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit,” one day at a time. (Galatians 5:25)

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Blessed Pope John Paul II forgives Mehmet Ali Agca

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