The choicest first fruits of your soil you shall bring to the house of the Lord, your God.
~ Exodus 34:26
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
~ Galatians 5:19-23
The dead of winter feels like a funny time to talk about fruit. Luckily for us, I’m not talking about grapes and oranges. I have had a different kind of fruit on my mind, “fruit” as it means “produce”.
The ancient Jews, following Moses in the desert, had escaped Egypt after the Passover. During the Passover, God had taken from Egypt every first-born, animal or human. This plague of death passed over the faithful Jews who followed the Lord’s instructions and found themselves released from their servitude. In Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, all chronicling the trek through the desert to Canaan, God says repeatedly that, at the Passover, he consecrated the first-born to Himself. Those who were spared death in the faithful households belonged to God and He claimed them as His own. He claimed also the first-born of the livestock, and the first-fruits of the field.
The Jews therefore gave in sacrifice their first-born livestock and the first-fruits of their crops. The Levites, one of the tribes, God took in place of the first-born of each household to serve in His temple.
In the time of the Old Testament, it was easy to know how to give to God one’s “first-fruits”, but what kinds of “fruits” do we give Him today?
Galatians, written thousands of years after the Exodus, speaks of the difference between the flesh and the spirit. The author illustrates the base desires of the flesh and identifies them as contrary to the path to Heaven. He follows this with a listing of the “Fruits of the Spirit”. These are the gifts, given to us by God through the Holy Spirit, which, when faithfully practiced, will bring us closer with our Lord and lead us to Him.
So, we know that the first-fruits of our harvest belong to God, and we know what the fruits of the Spirit are. How do we give the first-fruits of the Spirit to God?
Love – God has given us each the ability to love every one and everything around us. And through our love of others, we show our love of the Lord. The offering of this fruit to God is exemplified in Blessed Mother Teresa, who said, “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.” To give of your love to the Lord, give of it to every person you see, whether your gift be a smile, a helping hand, a day of service, or heartfelt prayer.
Joy – God has blessed us with the ability to feel joy. We feel the joy of a child’s birth or the joy of a new morning. Joy is a celebration of the good in our lives. To give the fruits of our joy back to the Lord, we must celebrate our lives. Find the joy in every moment of your day-to-day existence and offer it up to Him constantly, living a joyful life in Him.
Peace – We have each been given the ability to have inner peace through God. Through his Spirit, he calms our souls and minds and brings us to communion with Him and with those around us. Some of us struggle to give God the space in our souls to create His peace. Open your heart to Him and give Him room that He may give you peace throughout your day. And once you’ve given Him a place in your heart and live in His peace, share that peace with those around you. Show the world the peace the Lord gives to you.
Patience – It can be hard to believe at times, but we all have the ability to be patient. God asks us to wait for many things. In the short-term, for answers to our prayers, and in the long-term, for Jesus to come again for us. It is easy for us to be impatient though. The world we live in is one of instant gratification and we are quick to choose the easier and faster path. Examine your choices. Is God asking you to wait a bit to get the thing you want? Are you making choices to by-pass God and get to your desires faster? Trust in God to give you what you need in His time and choose the patient path.
Kindness – A popular arrangement of Psalm 145, Scott Soper’s Loving and Forgiving describes God as “slow to anger, rich in kindness”. These descriptors are all related. God is loving, forgiving, slow to anger, and rich in kindness. He sees past our faults because He loves us, quashes His anger toward us and shows us instead His unending kindness. He has given us of His kindness that we might share it with others. This kindness is rooted in the others: love, forgiveness, and absence of anger. In your interactions with those around you, you are already sharing God’s love. Take the time to also consider whether you are practicing forgiveness and whether you are allowing anger to affect your decisions. Kindness comes in the absence of judgement and in actions of genuine care for those around us.
Generosity – God has made us a generous people. He asks us to sacrifice for each other and for Him. We give, not just of worldly goods, but also of ourselves, to those who need our help. During this time of Lent, one of the three forms of penance we are to be practicing as Catholics is almsgiving. Find ways to give generously of your goods and of yourself to those in need in the service of the Lord during Lent and the rest of the year.
Faithfulness – God calls us each to faithfulness. Our faithfulness is our gift back to Him. God’s call to faithfulness is explained beautifully in a song by Notre Dame grad Danielle Rose, Holiness if Faithfulness. I strongly suggest you take a listen, and give of your faithfulness to the Lord.
Gentleness – It is the intention of God for us to be gentle. Yet the world we live in today abounds with messages to the contrary. We are encouraged to be sharp and sarcastic with those around us and to speak ill of others behind their backs. Some of the most painful blows in life are not from a fist, but from the words someone has spoken about us. Guard your tongue, be gentle both with the people around you and with your Lord.
Self-Control – In the Garden of Eden, God gave Man the freedom of choice. With the Holy Spirit, He gave Man self-control to help him to make the correct choice. During Lent, we sacrifice and make use of our self-control to bring us closer to God. Use your self-control to make decisions that are pleasing to the Lord, showing restraint in decisions that are contrary to His Word.
Everything that we have has been given to us from the Lord, and of every thing we have, we owe to the Lord the first-fruits. Look daily for the ways to give of the first-fruits of your gifts to your God and He will continue to bless you in abundance.