The Gospel for the 5th Sunday of Easter concerned the Vine and the Branches. We will only have Life if we are a part of the Vine. However, the Gospel also spoke about a vinedresser needing to prune those branches that do not bear fruit, that they may bear more fruit. See, John 15:1-2. Here’s the problem I have: can I correctly identify those branches IN ME that are either not bearing fruit or are not bearing enough fruit? How do I do that? At this point, we may be thinking, “I already feel like I have pretty good fruits.” But, then, I’m not the vinedresser, am I?
Practical Ways We Can Be Pruned
For starters, those of us who are lucky enough to have a spiritual advisor are already on the right path because if we are candid, that spiritual advisor can help us identify those aspects of what we do, how we think, who we are. But most of us do not have a spiritual advisor. What then?
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a wonderful way to air out those problems that prick our consciences and tell us that we’re going in the wrong direction. Before we go to Confession, though, we can self-examine by reading through an examination of conscience online or in a booklet to start us down the path with a very good flashlight. How about telling a fellow, devout Catholic friend how I feel about certain people or certain things, that can help us find those pesky dark corners of our lives that need cleaning out?
A man was once trying to make his Lent a successful one, so he asked his wife if she would write down those things about him that needed improvement. She replied by saying “There isn’t enough paper.” Some of us may feel that way at times, but we have to remember that Jesus is Mercy itself. He understands our humanity but also wants us to progress along the road to holiness. We are, after all, called to be saints, right?
Still, needing that flashlight? Read Scripture. Study your favorite parables. The parables are the flashlight Jesus uses to shine light upon those parts of our human nature that cause us to succeed or to fail. The parables are often as much about virtue as they are about the weaker sides of our nature.
These examples of virtue can be found in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Do we strive to practice, and therefore strengthen, those gifts? Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to work within us? Those gifts are charity (or love), joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, long-suffering, gentleness, faith, modesty, self-control, and chastity. (Gal. 5:22)
Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Fruits of the Holy Spirit
So what’s the difference between the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Well, the gifts are the virtues, or the seeds, which produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit. “Fruits” are another word for “actions”. So, allowing the seeds of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to take root in us will give rise to the actions resulting from those gifts. Our actions will be born out of the seeds, the virtues, that we cultivated.
Other gifts/virtues/seeds of the Holy Spirit:
- Witnessing Power (Acts 1:8)
- Mutual Encouragement (Romans 1:11-12)
- Ministry, Romans 12:7; Teaching, Romans (12:7)
- Encouraging, Contributing, Leadership, Showing Mercy, and Spirit of Unity (Romans 15:5)
- Wisdom and Knowledge (I Corinthians 12:8)
- Healing (I Corinthians 12:9)
- Prophesying, Miraculous Powers, Discernment, Tongues, Interpretation (I Corinthians 12:10)
- Administration (I Corinthians 12:28)
- Revelation (Ephesians 1:17)
One Last Recommendation
Finally, Adoration before the Eucharistic Jesus, with our spiritual or holy reading. When we take this sort of reading as we spend time with Jesus, the Holy Spirit is there to guide and encourage us along the Way. Choose books and themes from a reliable Catholic source, as we can be misled by the many authors who have decided that the Magisterium is theirs to change. There are so many books and videos that help us to meditate on how to get to where Our Lord wants us to go. Our reading can be a wonderful source for our self-examination, helping us to see ourselves as God sees us, and making those changes and adjustments that are needed.
These are just some ways to “prune” ourselves. Our work now will help us to continue pruning with the new tools we have acquired that are right for the job. Choose any one of these, and soon you will see yourself blossoming abundantly like an apple tree in Spring.
Victor Negrón is a husband, father, grandfather, practicing lawyer, former judge, past-President of the San Antonio Catholic Lawyers Guild, lay evangelist, Board Member of Pilgrim Center of Hope and A Woman’s Haven. Judge Negrón became Board Certified in Family Law in 1987. As a lay evangelist, Victor has served as a leader for Eucharistic Adoration of San Antonio, Inc., and has been involved with Pilgrim Center of Hope’s evangelizing activities since its early years – formerly as emcee for the Catholic Men’s Conference, and currently as a member of the PCH Board of Directors.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.