Sacramentum: The gifts of the Spirit through Baptism
Sacramentum explores the sacraments of the Catholic Church – the depths of their meaning, history, and, above all, the impact they have on each of us in our daily faith lives. This article will focus on the gifts of the Holy Spirit imparted at baptism. It is written by Office of Evangelization and Catechesis assistant Rudy Jerome Mallannao.
In the Gospel of John, we are drawn to consider the fact that when we are baptized, we are appointed and chosen by God to bear fruit – “fruit that will last” (John 15:16). When we are baptized as Christians, we are asked to “go forth and live out what we have received in baptism.” These are the instructions by which we are called to bear fruit for the Lord. This is the very same message that the priests utter during the final blessing of the Mass: “Go forth and proclaim the Good News” – in other words, go forth and bear fruit.
Jesus said, “Every good tree bears good fruit.” (Matthew 17: 12-20) You can tell a tree by its fruit. You can tell a tree is an apple tree if there are a bunch of apples growing on it. In the same manner, we humans are all from the same tree and are capable of the same fruits. That is why everyone of us is capable of loving, empathizing, showing kindness, and the like.
A little trivia: did you know why we are called Christians? Who gave us that name? Was it Jesus? Did Jesus say since you follow me, you’ll now be identified as Christians. No, the one who gave the followers of Jesus that name was actually the pagans in Antioch, who saw these followers of Christ, that their speech and behavior was like that of Jesus. They were called “Christians” for they were bearing fruit like Christ. There is a song entitled: “They’ll know we are Christians by our Love” which gives emphasis on this. We are recognized as Christians because we bear the very same fruits that Jesus Christ did.
On this month’s issue of Sacramentum I would focus on the fruits that God himself planted deep within us, that are nurtured by our baptism and by how we live our lives.
These fruits are the fruits of the Spirit. Paul in his letter to the Galatians reminds us that in following Jesus we would be able to nurture the fruits of the spirit which are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-26). When Paul talked about fruits, he didn’t mean people who followed Jesus should look for grapes or pineapples growing from their elbows. Instead, Paul meant that as we grow in our faith, we can let the Holy Spirit transform us to be more like Jesus. That’s what Paul meant by fruit.
Sacraments are the outward sign of an invisible grace, and, in the same manner, our actions are the outward sign of the fruits that God has planted in each and every one of us. The fruits of the spirit are the invisible manifestations of the seeds that God entrusted to us to nurture and develop and to eventually be able to bear fruit so that it might help others be nurtured as well.
You can’t buy happiness, love, or self-control in a market, you cannot buy gentleness, kindness and goodness on Amazon or at Walmart. These are an invisible and outward sign of how a Christian has nurtured these fruits to the point that they have grown and eventually made an impact on other people.
To bear fruit is to live out the gifts of the Spirit and the example of Christ in meaningful ways that impacts not only a person’s family or friends but the whole of society, and so these fruits now become a way for evangelization.
There’s a saying by Louis Armstrong, “when you smile, the world smiles back at you”. When you’re so happy that you are able to bring joy and a sense of comfort to those who are sad and mourning, when your patience and self-control reaches a level that other people look up to you and desire to emulate what you do, and when your expression of kindness, gentleness and goodness makes another person hopeful and helps someone reach out from their spiritual and emotional depravity – you are doing evangelization. You are proclaiming the Good News through your actions.
If we nurture and allow the fruits of the Spirit to radiate in us, we are able to evangelize others because we are able to touch the hearts of other people; they are able to recognize and witness to these fruits of the Spirit in you. It’s like one fruit producing many seeds. By living out our faith, by bearing fruit through living out Jesus’ teaching, we are able to preserve and nourish these fruits and inspire them in others.
How do we preserve and nourish the fruits that we have? By constantly receiving the sacraments – especially the Eucharist, by living out Jesus’ teachings, and by doing good and avoiding evil.
Every material fruit we know of deteriorates and expires, they simply never last. However, these fruits of the Spirit last way beyond one’s lifetime. If we nurture them well, these fruits of the Spirits are fruits will never expire. We will carry them with us into eternity. These fruits of the Spirit will even speak for you after you’ve passed. People would say he was kind, gentle and loving or she was very patient, joyful, and peaceful. The fruits of the Spirit will speak for us even after our time have passed – just like the saints. The stories of the saints are the stories of the fruits of their lives. We honour the saints because they represent a life that bore much fruit through being true followers of Jesus.
A recent event that happened in an abbey in Gower, Missouri where members of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, exhumed the body of their foundress who lived a life of faithfulness, kindness, gentleness, and faith. They did so because she was to be transferred to a new St. Joseph’s Shrine inside their abbey’s church, a common custom to honor the founders of religious orders. During this process, they found out that Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster’sbody was incorruptible – which in Catholic tradition refers to the preservation of the body from normal decay. Though not an officially proclaimed saint yet, she is nonetheless on the process. This is a concrete proof that the fruits of the Spirit when nurtured well will bear fruit that will last beyond our lifetime.
A lot of people now are flocking in groups to visit, see and pray to ask the intercession of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster. This is the effect of the fruit of the Spirit that she has nourished with God – it touches the hearts of people and always prompts towards a positive change.
So don’t’ give up, continue nurturing the fruit of the Spirit that was nurtured from our baptism. Like every fruit needs water to grow, let us too be nourished in the Spirit by the remembrance of the waters of baptism. Let us always strive to preserve and nourish these fruits of the Spirit that we may also be fruitful like the saints. As an echo to the priest’s final blessing after the mass, “Let us go forth (to the world) and be fruitful.”
Written by Rudy Jerome Mallannao