Seven Gifts and Nine Fruits – Come, Holy Spirit!
The final nine days of Easter Season are a time of prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit more deeply into our lives today. Each baptized Christian has already received the Holy Spirit. Through Confirmation the gifts of the Spirit are strengthened in our lives, so we become adult Christians, ready and able to bear fruit in the world as Christ’s Mystical Body. In a very real way, we are Jesus’ eyes, hands, feet, and heart in our world.
What are these gifts that are so powerful? The prophet Isaiah first listed them in describing the one who, springing from the family of Jesse, would bring justice to the land. “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord.” (Is 11:2).
Each of these gifts comes from the Spirit of God. The gift of Counsel is sometimes known today as Right Judgement — choosing to act in accord with God’s wisdom and understanding of the way of love. Strength is sometimes called Courage — a courage that goes the distance, even to sharing in the cross. Fear of the Lord is better understood as Wonder and Awe before the powerful love of our God — a sense of “Wow” or “Isn’t God amazing!”
Gifts from God are meant to bear fruit in the lives of their recipients. They are never given to be cooped up or to be a source of personal pride. The fruits of God’s favor are not what we commonly consider to be signs of success, however. They don’t include gaining personal wealth or holding on to a good job. Becoming a celebrity, even if a celebrity because of doing lots of good works, isn’t a fruit of God’s favor. Feeling happy all the time and loving one’s work is not a fruit of the Spirit.
The Fruits of the Holy Spirit are listed by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22) These characteristics are not dependent on our success in our work or our efforts to spread the Good News. Even if everything is crashing around us, these qualities will be a sign to all that God is still in charge and will bring good out of what is happening. Some may be more obviously present at one time than at another, but even when God seems far away, the strength to remain faithful to the Gospel’s call is a fruit of the Spirit. The presence of these Fruits of the Holy Spirit also helps us discern whether the way we are following is the way God would choose for us. To the extent that these fruits of the Spirit are present, God’s Spirit is present in our lives and reaching out into our worlds.
Now is the time to pray together for the Holy Spirit to pour out these gifts anew, that we may bear fruit in God’s garden.
Image by Gian Lorenzo Bernini – From Throne of St. Peter stained glass
St. Peter’s Basilica – Public domain