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Fruit of the Heart

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).

If you walk along the banks of a stream you will see plants that are lush and abundant. When you step away from the stream, the plants become sparse and dry. It is the same in our soul. When resting in the presence of the Holy Spirit, our soul produces joy and patience. When closed off to the Holy Spirit, our soul fills up with bitterness and impatience.

“Every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit…You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:17-20).

Our Scriptures today warn about false prophets. They also apply to ourselves. We can look inside our soul. What do we see? What spiritual fruit is our heart producing?

St. Paul describes two influencing spirits inside us: the spirit of the flesh, and the Spirit of God.

“The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh,” and, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17).

Every moment we are caught in this battle, tugged back and forth.

The works of the flesh are our vices: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:19-22).

It is really no wonder that a person whose life is caught up in these cannot enter heaven. Nothing magical happens when we die. The same man on this side of death walks into the other side. If our heart is chocked up in bitterness now, we could stroll all along paradise and remain just as bitter. If consumed with anger now, we will remain angry in eternity. God gives us the desires of our heart.

The fruits of the Spirit are the virtues: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (5:22). St. Paisios was known for his love and joy. There was nothing pretentious about him, but kindness clung to him like a fragrance. Even the wild animals sensed it, and were drawn too him by an irresistible gravity. Little birds often followed him with every step. “Humility and Love, there you have it. This is everything,” he once said, and he lived it in every breath. When the Holy Spirit fills our heart, holiness exudes out of us.

St. John of Kronstadt puts it this way: “The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who fills the whole universe, passes through all believing, meek, humble, good, and simple human souls, dwelling in them…light, strength, peace, joy…All pious people are filled with the Spirit of God as a sponge is filled with water.” So you see, there is nothing preachy about St. Paul’s teaching to the Galatians. He is not shaking his finger but casting light on an important truth.

We can know where our heart is, by the fruit it bears.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).

I want to confess a temptation I have. Sometimes a little thought irks me, a temptation saying, ‘Ah, if you were at a monastery you would be able to grow closer to God.” The grass is always greener on the other side. We all put too much importance on our circumstances, think we would be better people if such and such were different, if I were somewhere else, if I did not have such a lousy priest, if it were not for all these people…It is all an illusion.

What snaps me out of it is when I come home to wash the dishes and clean up after my kids. This is the real arena for working out salvation. The drudgery, the mundanities, the day to day trials — this is the stuff for making saints. Every situation that forces us to struggle with patience is our opportunity for co-working with the Holy Spirit.

The same is true about all the virtues. When someone upsets you, you have a chance to strive to love. When something shakes your faith, you have the chance to exercise faithfulness. Every temptation to indulge and gorge yourself, you are in the school of self-control. And while struggling against the flesh, we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit.

We spend our lives irritated by all the ‘interruptions’ as we call them — when we do not get our way — whether its health, finances, respect, you name it. We grumble and resent, but in reality, this is where we find God in our lives. It is in the interruptions, the frustrations, the discomfort, that we most know the Holy Spirit is working in us.

We do not need a monastery to become holy. We have everything here and now, if we can only let the Spirit work. While washing the dishes, while listening to an upset spouse, while interacting with unpleasant co-workers, while sitting down to a meal…

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces patience. And let patience have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete” (James 1:2).

…God is in our trials.

A sponge only soaks up what it touches. The fruit of our soul is the evidence of what we absorb, where we spend our time, how we tune our heart. As we struggle with patience and love in the day to day, we open our soul to God’s Holy Spirit.


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