Fruit of the Spirit

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"In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law" (Gal 5:22-23).

  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • patience
  • kindness
  • generosity
  • faithfulness
  • gentleness
  • self-control

I find it easy to remember love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. Generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (GFGS) are harder for me to bring to mind.

"Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance" (Lk 3:8).

Nine or Twelve Fruits?

CCC #1832
The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity" (Gal 5:22-23 in the Vulgate; emphasis added).

The best Greek manuscripts and all modern translations list only nine fruits of the Spirit. The motive behind expanding the list probably came from Revelations 22:2, which the Vulgate renders as "In the midst of the street thereof, and on both sides of the river, was the tree of life, bearing twelve fruits, yielding its fruits every month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."

I have no doubt that goodness, modesty, and chastity are fruits of the Spirit. I do doubt that they were on Paul's original list when he wrote the Letter to the Galatians.

Wisdom from the Garden

  • Fruit is sweet and appealing.
  • Fruit is fruitful: all fruit contains the seeds of new life.
  • Fruit is the product of a whole season of growth. Fruit takes time to develop. "We don't plant seeds one day and harvest apples the next."
  • Fruit is nourishing. Fruit satisfies in a way that other foods do not. Fruit is intended to be eaten.
  • Farmers don't cause fruit to grow. The fruit-bearing trees and shrubs have the power to produce fruit within themselves. Farmers pay attention to the conditions that favor or prevent growth; they co-operate with the life of the plant.
  • Waiting with patience for the harvest is part of farming. "Let go and let God."

Spiritual meanings

  • The fruits are all relational. The fruit of the Spirit is manifested in how we treat other people in our lives.
  • All of the fruits grow by sharing. The more we love, the more power we have to love. "Love and hate are muscles. They grow with use" (John Sack, Eye for an Eye).
  • "The Holy Spirit is the master of prayer, and causes us to abide in continual peace and cheerfulness, which is a foretaste of Paradise" (St. Philip Neri).

Scriptural Associations

Garden of Eden

"Out of the ground the LORD God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Gen 2:9).

The Fall

"The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves" (Gen 3:6-7).
Enjoying the fruit of the Spirit undoes the evil of the Fall. "Taste and see that the Lord is good!" (Ps 34:9).

The Fruit of Our Labors

"Here is what I recognize as good: it is well for a man to eat and drink and enjoy all the fruits of his labor under the sun during the limited days of the life which God gives him; for this is his lot" (Eccl 5:17).

Good trees bear good fruit

Mt 7:15-20.

15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.

16 By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

17 Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.

19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

20 So by their fruits you will know them.

Bear much fruit

Jn 15:1-15.

1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.

2 He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.

3 You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.

4 Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.

5 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.

6 Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.

7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.

8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

9 As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.

10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love.

11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.

12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.

13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.

14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

15 I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, 6 because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.

16 It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.

Cultivate the ground

If we want the end result, we have to will the means to the end. Fruit does not appear out of nowhere. It requires good soil, protection from animals and bad weather, sun and rain in due measure, and the labor of harvesting.

Lk 13:6-9.
This parable appears after two other stories that Jesus tells to emphasize that we need to repent of our sins.

6 And he told them this parable: "There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,

7 he said to the gardener, 'For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. (So) cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?'

8 He said to him in reply, 'Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;

9 it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.'"

Jesus expects fruitfulness

Cursing of the Fig Tree (Mk 11:13-15).

13 Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went over to see if he could find anything on it. When he reached it he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs.

14 And he said to it in reply, "May no one ever eat of your fruit again!" And his disciples heard it.

15 They came to Jerusalem, and on entering the temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.

16 He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area.

17 Then he taught them saying, "Is it not written: 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples'? But you have made it a den of thieves."

18 The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it and were seeking a way to put him to death, yet they feared him because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching.

19 When evening came, they went out of the city.

20 Early in the morning, as they were walking along, they saw the fig tree withered to its roots.

21 Peter remembered and said to him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered."

22 Jesus said to them in reply, "Have faith in God.

23 Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him.

24 Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.

25 When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions."

Jesus Himself is a "fruit of the Spirit"

"Blessed is the fruit of your womb" (Lk 1).

The Kingdom grows by itself

Mk 4:26-29.

26 He said,"This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land

27 and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.

28 Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.

29 And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come."

St. Paul to the Galatians

Gal 5:13-26

13 For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.

14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

15 But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.

16 I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.

17 For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want.

18 But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness,

20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions,

21 occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,

23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

24 Now those who belong to Christ (Jesus) have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.

26 Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another.