Last month we talked about “Fruits of the Spirit” as qualities the Spirit grows in us:  love, joy, patience, peace, kindness,generosity,faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  These are the Spirit’s gifts to us.  This month we will talk about another way “fruits” is used in Scripture..  When we speak of “bearing fruit for the Lord,” we are generally referring to what can be accomplished through us because of the gifts of the Spirit in us.  These are our gifts to God.

For example, as the Spirit works love and kindness in us, doing things for others becomes not a duty but a joy.  Or, as the Spirit cultivates generosity in us, tithing or increasing our level of giving to the Church and/or feeding the hungry, becomes less of a chore that we feel we should do, but rather more of a gift to God that we want to do.  As the Spirit works gentleness and patience in us, we find that we can deal with “difficult” people, not through gritted teeth, but in genuine concern and compassion.

We may be at a place in our life where it is obvious to us for some reason just which of the Spirit’s fruit we are most in need of now.  A situation we are in may call for particular patience or self-control, or a need may arise that calls for generosity on our part.  If there is no need that is obvious to you at present, remember that there is One who knows us better than we know ourselves.  Ask Him to reveal to you how He wants to help you to grow into the new person He intends you to be.  Ask Him for the gifts He wants to give you.  He would like nothing better than to give them to you!!

If you are not sure how to go about this, here are a few suggestions:

1.                       Sit quietly and clear your mind.  Focusing on your breath for a short period may help with this.

2.                      When you are ready, say something like, “Lord, I want to manifest your Spirit in my life, but I’m not sure how.  I don’t even know just what to ask for.  You promised that in situations like this your “very Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” (Rom.8:26,27)

3.                      Sit quietly and listen for God’s answer.  God may speak to you when you are deep in prayer but also during the course of your everyday life, the answer may suddenly become clear as God speaks to you through someone close to you or even through a stranger. God may speak directly to you in church during the readings, the sermon, Communion, or during conversation with a brother or sister in Christ.  Since Jesus is the fulfillment, the perfect manifestation of the Spirit of God in human form, getting to know Him better through prayerful reading of the Gospels may be the way God will suggest to you which characteristic of Jesus (which fruit of the Spirit) He wants to help you cultivate.

4.                      Once you have identified your spiritual fruit, the way God means for you to use it to bear active fruit for/in Him may now be obvious, or it may come in any of the ways described above. 

5.                      This process will be our summer project just as the “instead of” activity was our Lenten project.  In the Fall we will have “fruit” for all to hang on the tree in place of the Easter blossoms.

6.                      Finally, to use an analogy from the summer sport of baseball: when an athlete finds that he has a particular talent or gift for batting, the only way he develops that gift is by practice.  The same holds true for our spiritual gifts.  While they are, indeed gifts, they require practice on our part in order to make the most of them.  Like natural fruit on, say, an apple tree, the fruit does not pop out all at once, but it grows gradually.  Now to combine the analogies:  If you have asked for the gift of patience, chances are that God will not “zap” it into you all at once, but help you develop patience through the intentional practice of patience.  Intentionally put yourself into situations that you know will require patience and enter into them with Jesus by your side and in your heart. Likewise with generosity.  Intentionally practice it, and if at first it requires much effort, it will gradually become so much a part of you that it will be one of your greatest occasions of joy.