During these times of the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest, we can easily feel a myriad of emotions. The stress of these challenging times can affect our mental health and family dynamics, as well as our relationships with friends and colleagues.
We may be struggling with anxiety, impatience, and irritability. Parents might feel short-tempered with their children. Friends might sense worry or discomfort from us, uncertain over how to offer encouragement. We might be feeling overwhelmed by work responsibilities or unemployment.
Conversely, we may have also come to appreciate so many blessings in life that we previously took for granted. People are connecting in creative ways–both online and in their communities–so as not to lose contact or support. Families are spending more quality time with one another, enjoying meals together, playing board games, and reconnecting. Enjoying fresh air while still respecting social distancing, young people are gathering to explore the outdoors and rediscover the beauty of the natural environment.
Such experiences have resulted in much-needed comfort, joy, and love. It is during periods of hardship that we are reminded to turn to God and seek his reassurance. Jesus calls us to put our trust in him, and he provides the necessary tools to endure and overcome any difficulty.
In addition to other outlets of God’s abounding grace, we find these tools in the fourteen fruits of the Holy Spirit. Not to be confused with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, these fruits aim to perfect us in our striving for eternal glory.
Contrasted against the danger of living according to the works of the flesh, St. Paul stresses in his writing to the Galatians the immense benefit and reward of following the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). While it is no small task to live them consistently, the fruits of the Holy Spirit can better steer us along a path of holiness as we seek and pursue God’s will.
Love, Joy, and Peace
As plain as it sounds, Jesus instructs us to reveal and celebrate the fruits of the Spirit through love. Keeping love as the foundation of our thoughts, words, and deeds can without fail lead us to God’s Kingdom.
As our faith teaches, carrying love as our daily mission in reflecting God on to others fills our hearts with joy and invites the world to do the same through our example. Having authentic joy will make radiant so much more about our personality and attitude, prompting others to recognize the significance of living according to the Holy Spirit.
Living joyfully, in turn, can translate into abundant peace. St. Teresa of Calcutta spoke of this as she encouraged the world to share peace through the simple act of a smile. As we plant seeds of peace, we bring unity to a divided world.
Patience, Kindness, and Goodness
When noting the seven human virtues that help us combat the temptation from the seven deadly sins, we can often recall the value of patience. While it helps us grow more adept at forgiveness, patience also protects us from anger, thereby keeping our hearts centered on Christ and his love and closed to the temptations of Satan.
With kindness, the Holy Spirit calls us to appreciate and share our blessings while also showing compassion to those in need. It is not enough merely to identify as Christians. We must live out our faith, not only with words but also through actions.
Acts of goodness, both big and small, throughout the day can carry a profound impact on the lives of those we encounter. Humbly displaying our true nature as God’s children glorifies Jesus and can spark intrigue in others to investigate the advantages of doing the same.
Generosity, Gentleness, and Faithfulness
Whether it be tithing, donating clothing to the less fortunate, or sharing a snack with a sibling, placing others before ourselves is proof of a generous heart. As Donald DeMarco writes in The Virtue of Generosity, “In gratitude, we are human; in generosity, we are divine.” While secular society might drive us to amass possessions, Jesus calls us to leave a legacy of selflessness by concentrating on the practice of giving, rather than always wanting to receive.
Indeed, living out this fruit of generosity can calm our hearts and help us live in gentleness. Author Natalie Seale notes this is important since it focuses our attention on God and can help teach us intentional humility. There is no better teacher to model a gentle heart than Jesus.
Faithfulness also guides us when dealing with troubles as we seek to live out God’s plan for us. When times get tough, it is our faith in God that helps us remain certain that, with him, we will emerge through life’s storms. As Abraham attests, loyalty to God in our faith leads to nothing but goodness.
Modesty, Self-control, and Chastity
The Church is undoubtedly counter-cultural when it comes to these qualities, given society’s continuous bombardment of messages linked to self-promotion, indulgence, and sex.
Jesus directs us to let our light shine. Heal so commands us to do so with meekness, not craving, or seeking the spotlight. Each day, Jesus calls us to live modestly, never boasting, or calling attention to ourselves for personal gain. Being disciples of Jesus, we are to mirror his life instead of collecting praise for our own.
In a world rife with greed and gluttony, self-control is critical to enjoying a healthy and happy life. The virtue of temperance ensures balance and helps us master our desires and instincts to remain honorable to God. Living with a mind, heart, body, and soul uncorrupted by social pleasures can keep us firmly rooted in God’s love.
Perhaps self-discipline is no more apparent or demanding when we strive to live the virtue of chastity. Typically associated with sex, chastity is a lifestyle that teaches us the true value of love, while also conveying the importance of patience and respect for both others and ourselves. To practice chastity fully, however, we must always remember to keep our eyes focused on Jesus.
Today, we face so many complex and challenging aspects, and are constantly trying to figure out how to navigate along life’s chaotic road. Turning to these fruits of the Holy Spirit can inspire us to keep pressing forward.
Living according to the Holy Spirit with these reliable anchors in place, we can feel secure knowing God is always with us on earth. This, in turn, can restore us to God and lead us to a more holy and fruitful life waiting in paradise.
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Matt Charbonneau is a high school religious education teacher who inspires his students to explore a deeper relationship with God. Applying uplifting lessons, engaging activities, and insightful experiences, he strives to demonstrate the powerful presence and unconditional love of God in everyday life. For more of Matt’s writing, visit God’s Giveaways at www.mattcharbonneau.com.