“The manifestation of God’s power, purposes and provision, at this very moment in history, by means of disciples and their intentional cooperation with grace.”
The difficulty in contemporary society is that we confuse the difference between a structure which supports the fruit bearing plant – and the fruit itself. To examine this, let’s take our young people as a point of departure:
- Attending the best academy
- Starting on a traveling sports team
- SAT coaching
- Having the latest technology
- Being elected Class President
- Acquiring glowing teacher recommendations
These are not bad things. Some would say that these are the “fruit” or a successful young life. But all of these are “structures.” So what does “fruit” look lie and sound like?
- “Your son is always so happy.”
- Your daughter is so generous with her time in helping the neighborhood kids.
- I saw your son walking around picking up trash – when no one was watching.
- Your daughter always stands up for the students who are unpopular.
Structures are good. Structures are necessary. Structures contribute to competence. Fruit, on the other hand, is about things like character and courage and charisms placed at the service of God to serve others. this isn’t about doing concrete stuff. This is about values. The Catechism discusses this in its idea of fruitfulness: “All of the works by which God reveals Himself and communicates His life to humanity.” (Summarized from Catechism #50-#53). This is witnessed by changes seen in individuals, families, neighbors and neighborhoods, church communities and even entire cities. Fruit bearing is the canary in the coal mine. If you don’t see it, you might be focused on the structures instead of fruits which actually changes situations for the best.
First – Do an inventory:
- Where am I seeing fruit in my life?
- Where is something happening where I am feeling content, fulfilled, excited, hopeful?
- In what areas of my life are other people commenting that they see changes in me and positive developments in my life
- In what areas of my life – that I consider really important – is this NOT occurring?
- Examine your answers? Where Is the focus?
- On things I do …
- Or changes that elicit hope and peace and contentment and a resolve to move to a better place?
- Check your emotions. St. Francis deSales says that “We shouldn’t be ruled by emotions but we need to pay attention to them – it is there where the Holy Spirit Resides. St. Ignatius Loyola writes that emotional “consolations” and “desolations” give us keys to effective discernment.
- Run this past someone you trust. Repeat it several times over a few months and notice what fruit becomes evident.
Is it too much to hope for? Scripture scholar Gerald Darring writes “No, it is not … as long as we maintain our faith in our God, who can ‘lead us to seek beyond our reach’” and that we are aware of THAT ONE THING that might be keeping us from a deeper relationship to the Lord, and a life characterized by fruitfulness. (Oh, by the way, that is the theme of our parish Mission that will be happening over the next three days. “Come and see!”)