I could use a lot more fruit in my life. I’m not talking about dietary fiber, either. I’m talking about the fruits of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And I’m going to need some help to grow these fruits. Sure, I have some of each naturally, but, like growing a really good garden, my personal fruit generation would benefit from a hefty application of compost and fertilizer.
It’s not hard to love. It’s just hard to really love. It’s hard to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me. It’s hard not to complain at the prospect of suffering—by which I mean inconvenience and not getting my way—in order to put another first.
Joy is really great when things are going great and good things are happening in our lives. It sort of springs forth from the good things that happen. I have Christmas decorations proclaiming it! But really? I’m supposed to exude joy during rough times? Ummmmmm.
I want peace. I want World peace. Peace and quiet. Peace, man. It makes me so mad when there’s war and injustice, incessant demands on my time and concentration, people who just don’t understand how to chill out.
I’m willing to offer up my suffering for the good of another person or my own soul. No problem! I do it voluntarily every Lent, right? I go without some totally unnecessary goodies—sweets, coffee, something. I got this one. It’s a snap! Well, for the first hour or so. I’m telling you, though, that Thursday following Ash Wednesday’s fast and abstinence I feel so accomplished having gone without, you’d think it was already Easter. And then the realization sets in that that was only the first day of the six week season. Yeah, I think I could use a little help with long suffering, too.
Kindness. Surely I can claim kindness, right? I would never kick a puppy! I might say a few critical words about really bad people, but even a kindergarten teacher would fall there, right? And, okay, maybe it’s not just “really bad” people, but sometimes even I succumb to the “us” and “them” mentality that permeates our society these days.
Goodness. Okay, no argument here. The lack of this keeps me going to confession. Let’s just move along.
Aha! I’ve got this one, right? I have faith! Yes, I do! I go to church at least weekly, I believe all the stuff, probably better than some people. Wait, you mean there’s more to faithfulness than just believing it? I have to be faithful to it, to Him, too? It’s not just about doubting Him, but two-timing Him with my own selfishness? Drat!
Gentleness? I don’t even know how that differs from kindness. This is getting embarrassing!
Last one, and I think we have hit on the problem: self control. If I only had some of this, the others would just fall into place domino-like, right? So, where am I going to get it, because, this is seriously lacking in me. I’m in good company, though. Even Saint Paul did what he did not want to do and didn’t do what he wanted to!
These fruits are not to be found in their fullness within me. Fortunately, I’m not expected to just practice till they’re perfect. These are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. So, having been baptized and confirmed, all I need really do is ask for them in greater abundance and get out of the way!
A little further on, in Galatians 5:25, St. Paul writes, “If we live in the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Some translations render it “let us walk in the Spirit,” but keep in step suggests a dance. When dancing, the most important skill of the following partner is to follow and not constantly try to lead. It’s much more enjoyable and beautiful for everyone that way, too.
But I began with a gardening image for these fruits and I’m going to stick with it. You can dance if you want to. What I need is some compost to amend the soil of my soul.
Compost makes us think of decomposition. Eww, yuck! And there’s something to that for my needs. I need to be broken down a bit. But it’s not really just about dying and falling apart. Compost happens because the matter is, in fact being acted on by living things—by insects, bacteria, fungus—to transform something dying into living soil!
The Holy Spirit is the source of life and is Living Love. I must ask the Holy Spirit to keep working on those areas in me that are just dead matter so that I shall put forth the fruits I was meant to. And not only will I become more myself, but I can better feed and nourish others as well. I must ask for the fruits then let the Holy Spirit amend my soul.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.