Gifts and fruits
Come, Holy Spirit! There is no prayer more central to our Christian faith -- and no request more likely to be answered. God, in all his mystery and love, pours himself into humanity in Christ Jesus. And once humanity takes its place at the right hand of the Father, he sends his Spirit to dwell in us.
Of course, most of us are pretty oblivious to how utterly astonishing the basics of Christianity truly are. We mumble through the creed on Sundays: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets." But just stop for a moment and think. God, the one who made the entirety of creation, who knows all, who is eternal, who is all-powerful and all-merciful, comes to live in you and me.
I know, everyone focuses on the gifts. We teach our confirmation candidates to expect great things, perhaps without completely believing that they will, in fact, receive them. Still, we all want our share of whatever is being given out. Wisdom, knowledge, understanding? Count me in. Piety, fortitude, counsel? Sure. Fear of the Lord? Tell me what it is, and I'll sign up. After all, who doesn't want to be "gifted"? Talents, gifts, and charisms -- both natural and supernatural --give us a place and sometimes even a purpose.
God gives us his Spirit at baptism and stirs it into flame by the sacrament of confirmation. He empowers us for service and mission, and makes it possible to live our lives in union with him. But while we may be in it for what we can receive, God is in it for who we can become. God's purpose in sending his Holy Spirit to us is so that we may be fruitful.
Gifts, fruits ... aren't they just different words for essentially the same things? Nope. While gifts just come to us, fruit is born of relationship. Remember, Elizabeth calls Jesus the "fruit" of Mary's womb. The Incarnation of Christ is the result of Mary's union with God's will for her life. If we want to be filled with charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity, we must cooperate with the grace and presence of God in our lives. Gifts cannot make us holy; fruitfulness does because flows from a transforming relationship with God himself. It is in fruitfulness that we become more like the God who is alive within us. Gifts are ours simply because God is gracious. The Fruits of God's Spirit, though, don't just appear; they demand our participation, our communion with God. We receive gifts, but bear fruit. There is something of ourselves that is given. In fruitfulness, we become the gift that is given.
This Pentecost, as we hear about the tongues of fire and the birth of the Church and wonder at the stories of speaking unknown languages and thousands of baptisms, let's ask the Holy Spirit to make us fruitful. Let's seek the fruits of the Spirit more eagerly than his gifts. Let's place a higher value on how we live than on what we can do. Let's cooperate with God with the hope that he will form the character of Christ in us. Let's surrender ourselves to the guidance of transforming grace, the kind of grace that can renew the face of the earth by renewing the hearts of those who walk upon it.
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.