In the past, when I read the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:1-8), I always thought of the final part of the story, where fruit is produced a hundred, sixty, or thirtyfold, as the result of sowing seed on rich soil. And so it is. But, in addition to this explicit meaning, it also implies another truth: we are meant to bear fruit!
God’s Fruit Stand
There are many kinds of produce in God’s fruit stand, but the one that is most prominent and binds the rest together is charity. Without it, we are no more than a noisy gong or a clashing cymbal; we are nothing and gain nothing (I Cor. 13:1-3).
That sounds harsh but think about it. In the spring you plant some seed in your garden, and then throughout the summer, you water, fertilize and cultivate the growing plant. In the end, however, your efforts fail to produce any fruit. What would you say about this plant? That it was useless.
Our love for God draws us to seek His will and then act on it. It produces good works. All of creation has new meaning for us. We use material goods, not for self-gratification, but to further God’s kingdom. We care for the natural environment instead of treating it with self-serving abuse. We nurture and protect life and care for our own health. Given both natural and spiritual (charismatic) gifts, we nurture these and use them for the good of others. Receiving the gift of faith, we’re not content to bury it and wait for the Master’s return, but we desire for it to grow and let the Spirit form us into the image of Christ.
Love moves us to give witness to Jesus and invite others to know Him. Love is not satisfied to remain by itself but joins with the Church to care for others and live out its mission. Rather than treating our families as possessions, we protect and nurture the children God gives us and raise them to become fruitful disciples of Jesus. Charity motivates us to care for others, to seek their good, and to pursue justice, peace, and solidarity.
Love makes no provision for possessiveness, fear, selfishness, materialism, irresponsibility, or hedonism. Instead, it produces gratitude, trust, generosity, responsibility, self-emptying, and justice. The other fruits of the Spirit — peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and yes, joy, are all tied to charity. While the gift of the Spirit predisposes us to these fruits, they require our cooperation and effort to nurture them.
The Bottom Line
What is it about living a fruitful life that gives us joy? God is love, and we are made in His image. Our purpose and destiny is love. God created us for love. Living in that love makes us whole, and God dwells within us. In His presence, then, we will know a joy that nothing can take away. It is true that some trials are so intense and the soul feels so oppressed that joy temporarily escapes us. But the promise remains, and the suffering we experience is only momentary compared to Eternal Life. We draw strength from God’s Word:
I have told you this so that you will have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world [italics added].
John 16:33, NABRE
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:38-39 NABRE
Living with Joy is the final part of a four-part series on the spiritual fruit of joy.