In today’s world, little is heard about the good fruits of mankind. Instead, more often than not, we find splashed across daily headlines the negative fruits brought forth across the world. There are the fruits which stand in direct opposition to God, in opposition to the sanctity of life and the sacredness of marriage. There are fruits which protest righteousness, goodness, compassion and peace. We regularly witness the fruits of presidents and politicians who proudly endorse laws which support the killing of the innocent unborn, suppress religious freedom, and who encourage dissention over unity.
Some mistake popularity, charm, charisma or great oration as good fruits. Yet nothing can be further from the truth – for it is deeds, not words, which always tell the full story and give greatest insight into the soul. Jesus stresses to us the importance of being aware of those “who come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7:15-17).
In today’s world where so much emphasis is placed on the external, the temporal, and the trendy, we can become blinded and seduced by what we think is good or what the world would have us believe is good. However, it is wise to always look deeper into the actions not only of individuals, but also the actions of organizations, political parties and popular movements and ask ourselves– what types of fruits are they producing? Important also are those we surround ourselves with in our personal lives including our friendships, our social circles, our workplaces, our career choices and even our vocations. It is particularly important, if called to marriage, to be aware of what we are seeking a spouse. What types of fruits are they bringing into our lives? But how do we identify good fruits vs. bad fruits? In Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (5:22-23) he makes it clear to look for the fruits of the Holy Spirit which are “joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” With these simple words, Saint Paul sums up for us the very definition of what healthy relationships and situations should look like.
And what of ourselves? By what fruits are we known? Do we possess the fruits of the Holy Spirit in how we treat others? As Galatians 6:4 points out, “each one must examine his own work.’ Therefore, “how can you say to your brother, ‘brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?” (Luke 6:42). And so we must ask ourselves if we, more often than not, bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our own lives? In our weakness, we may not always demonstrate the fruits of the Holy Spirit as we battle against impatience, stress, anxiety, discouragement and the busyness of life. Yet, God calls us to be able to identify bad fruits when we encounter them – not only for our good but the good of society. An example of this can be found in endorsing or promoting the actions of political candidates whose beliefs fundamentally conflict with moral law. The five Catholic non-negotiables which include not voting for candidates who support abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning or homosexual marriage serve as good guidelines in identifying candidates whose oppose Catholic moral teachings. In being aware of the “fruits” of candidates based on their voting records and individual positions, we are better able to support and endorse those who instead, uphold a culture of life and moral principles.
We know that fruit in order to be good must be cultivated and that it takes time to grow and develop. We also know that apart from the vine – we can do nothing for as Christ said, “I am the vine, and 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). And while we rarely see it in the headlines – good fruits abound! We may need to search for them but they are more plentiful than the media would have us believe. Mostly, we see them in our everyday lives and in the ordinary. We see them in heroic first responders and military men and women who fight for the rights and freedoms of those they don’t even know. We see them in doctors and nurses who cross into dangerous territories to provide crucial medical services. We see positive fruits in the kindness of strangers and unexpected acts of goodness and mercy. We often see the fruits of the spirit among the poor, the unwanted, the lonely. There are unsung heroes everywhere who will never be recognized with worldly awards or honors, but who consistently produce good fruits in small ways known only to God. As we move through our days — today and everyday – let us be encouraged by this and continue to look for opportunities to be bearers of good fruits ourselves in a world that hungers for them.
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