A Good Tree is Known by Its Fruit
How can some among you say
there is no resurrection of the dead? (Second Reading)
In the Gospel Reading, Jesus says that every tree is known by its fruit. You can tell the difference between the good and the rotten trees by their fruits, he says. But he is really talking about us.
But what are the good fruits that you have to bring forth to count as a good tree? They are the “fruits of the Holy Spirit.”
Every person in whom the Holy Spirit dwells has the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Scripture lists nine fruits (see Galatians 5:22-23), but traditionally the Church has listed twelve. Here is that list:
You’ll see that I have divided the twelve into three unequal parts. The first part has five fruits that have to do with your relation to the Lord. When you are a good tree, you have the Holy Spirit indwelling in you. With the indwelling Holy Spirit, you are your beloved Lord’s, and he is yours in love and joy and peace. In that loving relationship, you can also bear better the troubles of this life, and so patience and long-suffering are on the list too.
The next four fruits have to do with your attitude towards your neighbor. When you are inclined to wish the good for your neighbor, you have goodness; and when you are inclined actually to help your neighbor in good ways, you have benevolence. You have mildness when you put up with a neighbor who is troublesome, and you have fidelity when you are inclined to forego getting revenge on him when he has been unjust to you.
Finally, the last three fruits have to do with your attitudes about yourself. You have modesty when you are inclined to be content even if you are not the center of everyone’s attention. You have continence if you are inclined to discipline yourself with regard to morally acceptable things. You manage to get your exercise in because you got yourself to turn the TV off, for example. And you have chastity if you are inclined to discipline yourself about those things that tempt you but that are not morally acceptable.
If you have all these good fruits of the Spirit, it will be easy to recognize you as the good tree that you are!
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University