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.
I remember a few years ago, standing in the Southwest Airlines ticket line at the San Antonio airport. My husband and I were eagerly awaiting our flight to a family get-together.
But our mood was disturbed as a woman furiously pulled her luggage into the line behind us. From her loud phone conversation, we immediately knew that her flight home had been cancelled due to tornado warnings elsewhere. After hanging up, she began spewing expletives into our shared air, seemingly unaware of the folks around her.
My annoyance turned to sadness for this woman, when she (angrily) revealed to an agent that she had an ill family member at home, with whom she needed to be present.
Whether by a trip to the airport, the grocery store, a walk around our neighborhood, or even staying home and scrolling the Internet, it’s easy to see how chaotic our lives can become. People get sick, accidents happen, tasks need accomplishing, not to mention injustices in our communities…
As life piles up, how can we maintain peace and trust in God?
At several points in the Gospel, Jesus’ disciples think they’ve got it made. We get it now, they say. We understand you and your message now!
But Jesus hands them a reality check:
Do you believe now?
Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived
when each of you will be scattered to his own home
and you will leave me alone.
But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
I have told you this so that you might have peace in me.
In the world you will have trouble,
but take courage, I have conquered the world.
Sometimes when we feel strong in faith, we get a reality check: something doesn’t go according to plan, and we panic.
Waving the White Flag?
Look at our first pope, Peter.
- As guards arrested Jesus, Peter fought back; cutting off a man’s ear!
- Afterwards, he tried to escape the situation; denying three times that he ever knew Jesus.
- At the Crucifixion, Peter was nowhere to be found.
What happened to Peter later in life, so that he finally had peace amid chaos? How was he finally able to “take courage” and face his own persecutors and death?
Peter learned to surrender.
That word invokes negative connotations. “Surrender” seemingly epitomizes weakness… and who wants to be weak? Yet, the centrality of surrender amid suffering is the message that Peter hammers home in his letters, which are now books of our Bible (1 and 2 Peter).
Why surrender? My spiritual director once instructed me to read a spiritual classic: Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, by Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade. Its author directly addresses our desire to fight or escape God’s will:
If that which God Himself chooses for you does not content you, from whom do you expect to obtain what you desire? If you are disgusted with the meat prepared for you by the divine will itself, what food would not be insipid to so depraved a taste? No soul can be really nourished, fortified, purified, enriched, and sanctified except in fulfilling the duties of the present moment. What more would you have? As in this you can find all good, why seek it elsewhere? Do you know better than God? As he ordains it thus why do you desire it differently? Can His wisdom and goodness be deceived?
Wow. In what we could call the “School of Surrender,” the first step to maintaining peace is to see my daily life as a personalized gift from an All-Good, All-Loving, Most-Wise and All-Powerful God.
If my day is filled with challenges, I have to trust that I’ve been offered resources & graces tailor-made to overcome those challenges. As my day is peppered with good things, surrendering means trusting that God has also willed those good things exactly for me at that moment.
What a source of joy!
Here at the Pilgrim Center of Hope, we deal with a number of challenges. Amidst them all, we gather each day in Gethsemane Chapel with our CEO (the Lord Jesus). We begin with a Consecration to the Holy Spirit recommended by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller. We pray, “O Holy Spirit… I surrender myself to You…”
Let’s make an effort to address our own daily ways of “fighting” or “escaping from” the everyday situations entrusted personally to us by our loving, Heavenly Father. What will we choose to do; complain? drag our feet? ignore some duty that we know is best for us? escape through many hours of entertainment?
Instead of complaining, let’s choose to praise God: “Thank you, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, for being with me at this moment.”
Instead of dragging our feet, let’s stand confidently in the graces that God has given us.
Instead of ignoring our duty, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to turn our eyes to face what is before us with courage.
Instead of escaping, let’s ask Jesus to take us by his hands that were pierced as a promise of his love and constant presence.
Come, Holy Spirit. Help me to find peace in surrender.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.
Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, having served at the apostolate since 2010. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.
Fr. Ed Hauf, OMI, hosts this week’s episode of Catholicism Live! on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit: what it is and how it can impact your life.
Catholicism Live! was a weekly program produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope from the early 2000s until 2019.
Join Deacon Tom & Mary Jane Fox as they guide you on a spiritual pilgrimage to the Upper Room, the holy place where early Christians received the Holy Spirit. This is also the site where the Universal Church was born on Pentecost. During this program you will:
- virtually travel to this sacred destination in the southwestern area of Jerusalem
- reflect on the important events that took place here, including Pentecost – the birth of the Universal Church
- gain a new appreciation for the Holy Eucharist and for the Catholic Church
- learn about how the events that took place in the Upper Room relate to you today
Jewel for the Journey:
He pours light into our minds, arouses our desire and gives us strength. He gives us light, that we may see; rouses us, that we may will; strengthens us that we may bring about the good which we desire. From His richness our tears spring, through it our minds know compunction, our sins are confessed. As the soul is the life of the body, so the Holy Spirit is the life of our souls.— St. Peter Damian
Listen to this program now:
2017 marked the 50th Anniversary of the Charismatic Renewal – but what is it?
Fr. Ed Hauf, OMI and Fr. Bob Hogan, BBD, Director of the Catholic Center for Charismatic Renewal, will talk about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and this Golden Jubilee.
Learn more about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Center.
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San Antonio, TX 78251-1409