Have you done a gut check recently on your values to make sure your time and priorities are aligned to what matters? In the season of life I am living, I’m constantly being drawn to simplicity and love. I believe that when everything is said and done, it’s not going to matter what possessions or experiences I had during my lifetime. Everything will boil down to how well did I love, and love will be the measure as to how quickly my soul will pass from earth to heaven. A review of our morals and virtues can help us to live the path of loving well.
Our moral life as Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As we have learned in recent weeks, we receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength or fortitude, knowledge, and of fear of the Lord, and piety through confirmation. These gifts belong in their fullness to Christ, and they complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make us docile to obey divine inspirations and when put to good use, they will bear much fruit.
In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul lists the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). These fruits reveal what the Spirit is like and His character traits. Because the Holy Spirit is a Person of the Most Holy Trinity, and because the three Persons are one, the fruits reveal what God is like. The grace and power of the Holy Spirit increases these fruits in us when we cooperate with grace. As we grow in holiness, these fruits expand and intensify.
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. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So, by their fruits you will know them.Focus on His truth Matthew 7:17-20
To be good tree, we need to live a life of virtue. Virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do good. The human virtues are stable dispositions of the intellect and the will that govern our acts, order our passions, and guide our conduct in accordance with reason and faith. They can be grouped around the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. The moral virtues grow through education, deliberate acts, and perseverance in struggle. Divine grace purifies and elevates them. The theological virtues dispose our relationship to the Holy Trinity. They have God for their origin, their motive, and their object – God known by faith, God hoped in and loved for his own sake.
There are three theological virtues that inform all the moral virtues and give life to them:
- By faith, we believe in God and believe all that he has revealed to us and that the Holy Church proposes for our belief.
- By hope we desires, and with steadfast trust await from God, eternal life, and the graces to merit it.
- By charity, we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God. Charity, the form of all the virtues, “binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14)
Over the next weeks, we will explore the fruits of the Holy Spirit as mentioned above. Today we start with love. Agape love is the highest form of love, love for both God and neighbor. It is selfless, focused on the other person, given freely and gladly without condition or the expectation of repayment, expressed in service, and willing to suffer on another’s behalf.
Just like physical fruit needs time to grow, the fruit of the Spirit will not ripen in our lives overnight. As we mature in our faith, all the characteristics of our spiritual fruits will grow as well. What are some of the benefits of learning, understanding, and living in the fruit of love?
- Love is probably the most well-known fruit of the Spirit, but it also may be the most misunderstood. Love is translated from the Greek word ‘agape.’ The Greek language has multiple words for love, including ‘eros,’ which is sexual love, and ‘philos,’ which is brotherly love. Agape is a perfect love from God.
- Jesus used the word ‘love’ 51 times during his teaching. In John 15:17, he used the word ‘love’ in a command, “These things I command you, that you love one another.”
- One of the most important traits of Christian character is love, a fruit indicating the presence of the Holy Spirit. Christian-based love always seeks to do the right thing.
- I Corinthians 13, also known as the love chapter, tells us that love is patient, love is kind and love never fails. In the world we live in, love often fails. We see it in marriages, families, relationships. Even as imperfect Christians, we often fail at love. By focusing on and practicing the concepts set forth in 1 Corinthians 13, we can begin to respond to and heal these failures.
- In society, we have overused the word ‘love’ in ways that minimize the depth of what real love is. We say we “loved the movie” or we “loved those blueberry pancakes” or we “love” a Facebook post. God demonstrates His perfect, selfless, agape love to a world that is often confused about what true love is.
How do we cultivate the fruit of love? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Pray the rosary daily. We ask God to increase our faith, hope and charity (love) through this simple and powerful prayer.
- Love God more. What do you know about God? Do you know what He is like? Search for aspects of God’s character in the Bible: try to spot His justice, grace, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, strength, and most importantly – His love.
- Know God’s Love. John 4:10 sums this up: ‘This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.’ We will only understand the extent of God’s love for us if we look at Jesus, who died for us. This is the Greatest Love Story Ever Told. Loving God and knowing how much he loves us helps us love others more.
- Spend a few moments breathing in and out, thinking about every inward breath as a symbol of God’s love. Remembering we are filled with God’s love, and breathing out God’s love helps in how we face the day and the choices we make.
- Love others more. Knowing God’s vast love for us, we are children of the King. We don’t have to aim for worldly success anymore. We can ask the Holy Spirit to help us let go of insecurities and bitterness and empower us to love others generously and extravagantly.
- Strive to show others God’s love. Whether it be reaching out to a friend in need, volunteering in a mission, or giving our time to a cause, we should strive to reach out in love, and let the fruit of love ripen inside our spirit. John 13:35 tells us, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
- Think about God’s love every time you take your daily shower. As you feel the weight of the water cascading down, think about the weight of God’s love for you, particularly the enormous power of the Holy Spirit.
- Pray for a greater love for God, a greater understanding of God’s love for you, and a greater love for others. Ask the Spirit to work powerfully in you and pray that your capacity to love those around you to increase.
- Above all, clothe yourself with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:14)
By faith, hope and love we live the cycle of a virtuous life. We become the good tree that bears good fruit bringing God’s much needed gifts into the world. Grounding ourselves in God’s love in the moments of our day allows us to live the path of loving well.
Smitten with the fruit of love,