The following is the text of the Christopher News Note “Gifts of the Holy Spirit.” If you’d like a pdf or hard copy, see the end of this post:
When we are baptized, we receive the Holy Spirit who will transform us, if we cooperate. Our growth in personal holiness begins as we have access to the virtues He gives of faith, hope and love. The more we love God, strive to do His will, and love those around us, the easier it is to notice and follow God’s plan for our lives.
We are greatly aided in our efforts by the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear or reverence of the Lord. The more we can understand and cooperate with these gifts, the more they have a profound influence on our ability to follow Christ. In fact, the benefits we receive are called the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
When we follow the Spirit’s inspiration, it becomes easier to show God’s love to others through our actions. Grafted onto Christ’s true vine, we bear the rich fruit of the Spirit. As Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
As a tree naturally yields its fruit without great effort, the fruits of the Spirit are performed with ease. We are pouring out the love with which our hearts have been filled and be-coming a witness of God’s love to others. This is a sign of the Holy Spirit within.
Max, a group leader at his church’s Scripture study, says that he has trouble thinking of these as fruits. “I’ve used the argument that ‘works are the fruit of faith,’ meaning that my good deeds are the result of my Christian faith. When I began studying the fruits of the Holy Spirit, I thought of them as the flowers that come before fruit appears. Flowers are beautiful, attract others, and are just as effortless for a tree to produce as fruit. They’re also the first step, so they lead to my doing the ‘works’ that show my faith to others.”
Fruits for Our Own Good
First come the fruits which bind us closely to God and are chiefly for the good of our own soul, although they can lead us to be powerful witnesses when others see our actions.
1. Charity (Love) — This is that famous word “agape” which means “unconquerable benevolence.” It means that we freely and unconditionally seek the highest good for those around us, even those who seek the opposite for us.
2. Joy — Joy is deeper than happiness or pleasure, and persists through trials and suffering. This is the quality which so impresses those who see Christian martyrs remain joyful despite torture and threat of death.
3. Peace — The original Greek word suggests “the rule of order in a place of chaos.” Peace is serenity which remains unaffected by outer circumstances. It naturally flows from the knowledge that we are in God’s hands.
4. Patience — Patience means that we gracefully bear life’s trials and suffering. St. John Chrysostom called patience “the spirit that could take revenge if it liked, but utterly refuses to do so.”
A Christ-like Love
Perhaps no one exemplifies charity, joy, and patience more than Betsie Ten Boom, who with her sister Corrie, was sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp during World War II as punishment for hiding Jews from the Nazis. In Corrie Ten Boom’s classic novel, The Hiding Place, Betsie displays a Christ-like love for everyone, even their captors.
During prayer toward the end of their captivity, they realized that God was speaking to them about the years ahead after the war was over. Betsie was clear about their calling, to have a large, lovely house with extensive gardens in which people damaged by concentration camp life could stay until they felt ready to live again in the normal world. It was not until much later that Corrie realized Betsie had in mind people like the guards at their camp. Even in the midst of their tortuous experience, Betsie had the greatest good in mind for their brutal captors.
Fruits for Our Neighbors’ Welfare
The next fruits greatly contribute to our own welfare, of course. However, they influence our daily interactions with others and so make us direct witnesses to God’s love.
5. Kindness — Kindness means being understanding and helpful. Recognizing Christ in those around us leads to a lack of abrasiveness even with those who are taxing our patience.6. Goodness — St. Paul’s word for goodness is found only in the Bible, not in secular Greek. It means the broadest sort of good, encompassing everything from Christ’s kindness to the woman anointing his feet to his driving the merchants from the Temple for the good of the worshipers.
7. Generosity — We acknowledge whatever good things we have from God by sharing whatever we have. Our possessions, faith, and time are generously shared with others without counting the cost.
8. Gentleness — Gentleness is an indication of strength and power under control. If we are gentle it means we are not irritable or resentful and we treat others respectfully.
9. Faithfulness — The faithful person fulfills every duty and doesn’t waver from any of their commitments, whether it be their faith, their spouse, or other loyalties. They can be trusted implicitly to do what they have promised.
Kindness Saves Lives
When Pastor Lee Jong-rak’s son was born with a serious birth defect, he asked why God would give anyone such a child. The minister in Seoul, South Korea, came to realize that every life is worthwhile and has something to teach others. Since 1998, he has saved 36 babies who were abandoned because of their disabilities. In 2009, he put a drop box on the side of his house so parents who didn’t want their disabled children could leave them there for him to care for. Pastor Lee’s generosity has deeply inspired American college student Brian Ivie who directed the documentary “The Drop Box,” about Lee’s orphanage. Ivie said, “He takes the most unwanted and loves them just the same.”
Fruits That Give Witness From Afar
The final three fruits testify to others about how we respect ourselves through our general appearance and behavior.
10. Modesty — Modesty is more than what we wear although that is how modern society tends to think of it. Modesty moderates how we show ourselves to the world by avoiding vanity, boasting or seeking praise. It shows some of the beauty of God who dwells within us.
11. Self-Control — Self-control is having mastery over our passions. Our thoughts and actions reflect that we are indeed temples of the Holy Spirit, even in situations where we experience great temptation.
12. Chastity — Chastity is sexual purity. It avoids or moderates indulgence of sexual appetite. Chastity is not only for unmarried or religious who have taken vows, but for everyone within their state of life. For a married couple, for example, it means maintaining an exclusive relationship in both thought and deed.
What These Fruits Mean For Us
“I was shocked the first time I really read what the fruits of the Spirit bring from our souls,” says Maggie, for whom a parish retreat brought a new appreciation of the Holy Spirit in her life. “I knew there were some qualities I simply was not showing at all. I felt like a failure until I remembered that the fruit comes easily if we are cooperating with God. Instead of being a failure, I realize that the fruit was like a mirror showing places I wasn’t working with God enough. So I started looking at the gifts of the Spirit and seeing where I needed to work harder on cooperating.”
We too may be feeling rather taken aback after reading about the wonderful qualities reflected in the fruits of the Holy Spirit and noticing some we don’t seem to possess. Reflection and prayer can help us pinpoint where we are not giving up control so that God may transform us.
Prayer for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit, Grant me the gift of holy fear, so that it may prevent me from falling back into my past sins.
Grant me the gift of piety, so that I may serve You for the future, follow more promptly Your holy inspirations, and observe your divine precepts with greater fidelity.
Grant me the gift of knowledge,
so that I may know the things of God and walk in the path of eternal salvation.
Grant me the gift of fortitude, so that I may overcome courageously all which threatens the salvation of my soul.
Grant me the gift of counsel, so that I may choose what is more conducive to my spiri-tual advancement and may avoid temptation.
Grant me the gift of understanding, so that I may apprehend the divine mysteries and detach my thoughts and affections from the things of this world.
Grant me the gift of wisdom, so that I may rightly direct all my actions and, having loved God and served Him in this life, I may have the happiness of possessing Him eternally in the next.
– St. Alphonsus Liguori
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