I wish I had learned long ago about the fruits of the Holy Spirit. We did learn the names of them, that is true, but we never went further than that; and because, all strung out in a row, they merely sounded like the virtues of nice people, we took it for granted that they came automatically with being “good.”
Like patience, for example. Anyone could consider the quality of patience and see that there was a great gap between patience and being patient; but most of the time, we were convinced that those who were patient were born that way. We had no real conviction that you could get that way. It was all very vague.
After a while, even the names of them got mixed up with the names of other things. We couldn’t remember if they were fruits, or gifts, or virtues, or what. It was safe to say that they were nouns.
Now we discover that the whole struggle between the flesh and the spirit could be changed if we understood about the fruits of the Holy Spirit – and acted on that understanding.
It is the most encouraging thing yet to realize that the fruits are the effects of using the gifts, not just something you grit your teeth and vow to acquire or bust. It is hard to explain why we never put the same practical sense to work applying the Gospels as we did applying other things. Like seeing a sign that said “Turn right,” and we turned right.
Our Lord talked about the fruits enough, in the Gospels, but for some reason, we never took Him literally, the way we did the traffic signs – for all we believed it was important to get to Heaven, and these were apparently the directions for getting there.
Just as we never dreamed that what He said about abiding in us applied literally to His indwelling, so we also missed what He said about the trees and vines bearing or failing to bear fruit. We had ears to hear, but we did not hear.
We listened to His parables year after year from the altar and supposed He was saying over and over again that good Catholics go to Heaven and bad Catholics don’t – never realizing that, instead, He was giving the directions for being a good Catholic.
It would take too long and more space than we have here to discover why – but that isn’t necessary. What we can do at once is explain to our children that He means what He says literally, most of the time. (There are a few exceptions, such as cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye.)
He means literally that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are fruits that grow in the soul that strives to use the gifts, and – joy of joys – that the gifts are that, gifts, freely given when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us at Baptism.
Living in Christ, reborn after Baptism, we could do great things with these gifts – if we would use them. Great things – such as being saints.
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes down upon us in an abundance of grace. Could we not beg Him, in our preparation for His feast, to enable us to understand and use the gifts, that we may bear fruits?
We prepare first in prayer, imitating our Lady and the Apostles, who spend the nine days between Ascension and Pentecost in prayer.
A family novena to the Holy Spirit invites Him to prepare our souls to receive best the great graces to come. Novenas to the Holy Spirit are available in booklet form, or the family may prefer to put together favorite prayers to the Holy Spirit, Psalms, hymns, and readings, and use these for the nine days.
Then there must be the story of Pentecost found in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. It is full of excitement and intriguing details that children love, and is both good reading and good telling. Acquaintance with it ensures a thoughtful meditation each time the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary come around.
And then, after prayers and a retelling of the story, it is easy to direct conversation to the gifts and fruits of the Spirit, so that we may consider in a practical way how they apply to our lives and our duties.
Lastly, in order to extend this lesson through all the year, we prepare a gift for each member of the family and decorations for our feast day that will enable all of us to remember that we must use the gifts if we would bear the fruits.
First, the story.
There were Jews from all over that part of the world in the city at that time because it was the Jewish feast of Pentecost and they had come to celebrate the harvest. Pentecost is a Greek word meaning “fifty” – the fiftieth day.
On the seventh week following the Passover (and one of its ceremonies had been the waving of a sheaf of grain before the Lord as a communal offering), the Law said that male Jews were to reassemble in Jerusalem and present to the Lord at the Temple two loaves of bread made from the fine white flour of the newly harvested wheat.
This feast was also to commemorate the promulgation of the Law. As always, the time for the event that was about to take place in the Church seemed to have been chosen for the significance of the season, for it was to herald the coming of Love Himself to dwell, a living Law, within the new Church, and its outcome that very first day was to mark the beginning of the harvest of souls.
Some spiritual writers have called it the birthday of the Church. Others, like Leo XIII, describe it as an Epiphany: The Church, which, already conceived, came forth from the side of the second Adam in His sleep on the Cross, first showed herself before the eyes of men on the great day of Pentecost.
And always, our Lady was at the heart of it. If we are to prepare for and celebrate the feasts of our Redemption well, we must unite ourselves to her first, the chosen one of the Holy Spirit, His bride and His beloved. She was at the heart of all these comings forth, from the first one to the last. In her, the Word was uttered and became came Flesh.
She brought Him forth in Bethlehem. She held Him in her arms at the first Epiphany so that the Gentiles might see this Jewish God who would graft them to Himself.
At her word, He proceeded at Cana to His first act in creating a Church that He would build by teaching and miracles for three years, then leave in the hands of men.
To her He entrusted His Church from His travail on the Cross: “Behold thy Mother.” She alone understood His promise of birth in glory out of the tomb. And now there gathered about her the ones He had chosen to sanctify in the life-giving fire of the Holy Spirit, that they might go forth and preach to all men the need and the way to be born again.
There came the sound of a great wind, so loud that the Jews outside in the city were attracted to the scene; and the zeal kindled by the tongues of fire in the souls of those men was so great you might say they were exploded out of the Upper Room.
The gift of tongues, the quality of their enthusiasm, was so far beyond the comprehension of the crowds that the scoffers assured themselves they were drunk. But it was only nine o’clock in the morning!
St. Peter said to them that men do not get drunk so early in the day. This was not drunkenness, but the fulfillment of a prophecy from the prophet Joel: “. . . and I will pour out my spirit in those days, upon my servants and handmaids, so they will prophesy.”
He preached to the Jews about David, who prophesied that one of his sons would God set upon his throne, that he would not be left in death, but be resurrected, and His body would not see corruption.
They were the witnesses themselves. They had seen that God raised this Jesus from the dead; and He had this day poured out His Holy Spirit, “as you can see and hear for yourselves.”
Indeed they could, in their own tongues – Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those from Mesopotamia, Judaea, Cappadocia, Pontus or Asia, Phrygia or Pamphylia, Egypt or the parts of Libya around Cyrene, some from Rome, some Cretans, Arabians…. “When they heard this, their consciences were stung; and they asked Peter and His fellow apostles, “What must we do?”
“Repent and be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ, to have your sins forgiven; then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
And there was a harvest that day of three thousand souls. Three thousand to whom the Holy Spirit came – and with Him His gifts.
Excellent and consoling sermon!
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Lovely book, worth the time and money! This book will inspire you with ways to live the Liturgy within your home!
In this joyful and charming book, Maria Von Trapp unveils for you the year-round Christian traditions she loved traditions that created for her large family a warm and inviting Catholic home and will do the same for yours….Mary Reed Newland wrote numerous beloved books for Catholic families, but The Year and Our Children is her undisputed masterpiece. Read it, cherish it, share it, put it into practice and give your kids the gift of a fully lived faith, every day and in every season….