Seek the Beauty of Holiness

Fr. Tom Forrest:
Friday Night Address to Catholic Charismatic Leaders’ Conference, Nashville

When the Carpenter sends you fishing, when he tells you, “Row out into the deep, cast your nets for a catch,” listen to him. Now there is one thing I know about fishing. When you go fishing, make sure that you bring with you the right bait.

Books like Treasure Island, Tarzan stories, King Solomon’s Mines, Indiana Jones, articles almost every month in National Geographic about expeditions in quest of lost galleons and many of the most thrilling stories in all of literature are about the search for and discovery of hidden treasures. And the fact is that God Almighty, through the voice of Jesus Christ, his Son, has sent all of us on a treasure hunt. A treasure hunt for the pearl of greatest price, for the treasure hidden in the fields that is worth more than everything else that the world contains.

This great and really wondrous treasure is more useful, more valuable than any crown of gold on our head, any number of diamonds on our fingers, any precious coins that we could sit down and spend the rest of our life looking at, counting, collecting and spending. Our quest is for the spring of living water welling up within us that adds immense quality to the life that is ours here in the world. This spring of living water beautifies our character.

Did you ever see a picture of Mother Teresa on the cover of Vogue or Cosmopolitan? No! Her face was as wrinkled as a prune, so nobody is going to use it to sell cosmetics. But when that woman smiled, you never saw greater beauty. And that beauty can be ours This beauty is the treasure of treasures and its name is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Just listen to the list: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control.

Now just any one fruit of the Holy Spirit outshines by far any amount of diamonds, silver or gold. “Put out into the deep and cast your nets for a catch” and the bait we have to attract people to a new way of life is nothing less than the fruit of the Holy Spirit. And that is just a different name for what we have always called the Christian virtues.

When a doctor instructs us to take nourishing fruit, we don’t find it hard to follow his advice—eat some apples, some peaches, some grapes, some mangos—that sounds better than taking castor oil. When we talk about virtues, all some people think about are sharp disciplines, acts of self-denial, deprivation of entertainment and human pleasure. But when we say we’re giving away fruit, people begin to envision a delicious treat. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is exactly what makes the Good News good! There’s nothing better. Now good parents spend fortunes sending their children to the best university to get a good education. And shopping malls contain millions of items to get you beautiful on the outside. But life is not an opportunity only for acquiring academic credentials, lovely facial features, or impressive bodily muscles. That’s not what life is all about. It’s an invitation from God, an opportunity given to us by God, for acquiring the beauty and spiritual health called holiness.

At Mother Teresa’s beatification, 300,000 or more people filled the Piazza because of the power, the wonder the beauty of holiness. And what makes us holy? The fruit of the Holy Spirit! The love, the peace, the joy, the patience—loveliness on the inside where it really counts—not the kind of beauty you get in those torture chambers called fitness clubs. The kind of goals that the world sets for us are for beauty only on the outside. But St. Paul teaches about being a beautiful person, and the joy and the peace of being that kind of person. He teaches us how to live in Philippians 1:9, “My prayer is that you may learn to value the things that really matter.” That is a blessing, to learn to value and to teach others to value the things that really matter.

Now I’m going to tell you something about the Charismatic Renewal—it is just beginning! Thirty five years? Just beginning! We have great things to do and the great thing right now is to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to spread the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Listen to how St. Paul spells this out in Philippians 4:8. He’s telling us to focus prayerfully on what is true, on what is honorable, on what is just, on what is pure, on what is lovely, on what is gracious and then he says, “If there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise let us think about those things.” You have wisdom to give to the world. Your job now is to go out and preach and proclaim from one end of the earth to the other, the wonder of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, many see faith and religion only as negative prohibitions. But they are wrong. Rather, faith and religion are the source of everything we need. They are the answer to our every problem.

Jesus didn’t die on a cross or rise from the dead and return to heaven in glory in order to limit us. No, he did it in order to set us wondrously free! And he does it by pouring out upon us his magnificent and sanctifying and beautifying fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Now in seeking the fruit, there’s something challenging that we have to remember. God created trees of every kind, declaring them to be good, but he also told us that they must produce seeds for the purpose of sharing their delight and nourishment. We must be seed bearing, not just have the fruit ourselves, but produce others with the same fruit to share with others. God does the same with us, giving us his blessings of peace, joy, love and all the other delights of the Holy Spirit and he does it with an abundance so that our lives in turn might be fruitful as we share our heavenly favors with others. Hear the Lord say to you, “I chose you to go and bear fruit that will last. These seeds sown on rich soil are those who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty, sixty, a hundred times.”

Picture this scene as described in Ez. 47:12 and Rev. 22:1-2, “Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind must grow. Their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month they shall bear fresh fruit for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. Their fruit shall serve for food and their leaves for medicine.” We know that the life-giving water that flows is the Holy Spirit. And the fruit trees that are watered by the life-giving water are you and me.

This scripture points out that every fruit of the Holy Spirit is a healing! Take the fruit of peace for example. It heals you from depression, it heals you from anger, it heals you from resentment. Take every one of those fruits and you will see that they are the greatest of all healings. So when you have healing services, base them on the fruit of the Holy Spirit and pray that every one of those divine medicines be a transformation in the lives of the people you pray for. Don’t just pray for eyeballs and toenails. Don’t just pray for the pieces and parts of the person. God is not a spare parts dealer! Pray for the whole person to be healed with that healing that comes through the outpouring of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

We read in Rev. 22:17, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ Let the hearer say, ‘Come.’ Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water.” I say to you, blossom! Prepare to spread the Good News. Share the fruit of life.

I pray this simple prayer for you, “Life giving Holy Spirit, nourish us with the waters of life and allow those waters to overflow in us in order to bathe others in the beauty of your goodness, your holiness and your love.” The fruit of the Holy Spirit, not the gifts, get you to heaven, make you Godlike. The gifts are the tools. Judas had the gifts but I’m not sure he made it upstairs. The fruit is the key to paradise and more than that, the key to a good life here on earth. So do your job because the world really needs you!

Fr. Tom Forrest, CSsR, recipient of the papal award, ProEcclesia et Pontifice on his 50th anniversary of priestly ministry, has served as Director of Evangelization 2000, Director of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Office, and as a member of the National Service Committee. Reprinted with permission of PENTECOST Today May/June/July/August 2004 .