Genuine spiritual development produces fruits.
Bearing fruit is the natural outcome of maturity. A plant cannot bear fruit while it is still young, immature for its kind. It has to wait for some months or years. Some plants mature in a matter of months, like the eggplant. But other plants mature in years like the oak tree. The eggplant matures in 3 months. Oak trees take 20 to 50 years to mature and bear acorns.
So also in the world of human spirits, some take months only to bear fruit, others take years to do so. This is because some take shorter time to mature; others take a longer time. The spirit of Maria Goretti matured and bore fruit in a matter of months. The spirit of Augustine of Hippo took a longer time to mature.
Fruits serve three purposes. They are delightful for the eyes to behold, nutritional to the body and soul, and they contain the seed for the replication or reproduction of the organism which bears it.
Fruits of the tree are a delight to see either naturally on the branches or with skillful arrangement on the table. So also the spirit bears fruit by making the person who has the mature spirit beautiful to behold, not necessarily physical, but in disposition. Slowly now the demeanor of the spiritual person is changed. From an impatient, worried person he/she becomes patient and calm.
There are nine characteristics of a person who is bearing the fruit of the spirit. These are: loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled.
The person, first of all, is loving. He has the inner and natural disposition to give of himself/herself in service to others.
Secondly, he/she is joyful. His/her joy is not influenced by circumstances but by an inner indefinable disposition. Even in the midst of scarcity or suffering, he/she is joyful.
Thirdly, he/she is peaceful. This peace radiates on the face of the spiritual person.
Fourthly, he/she is patient. He/she does not rush things through. He/she is not self-willed, but waits for circumstances to take their time in order to accomplish things.
Fifthly, he/she is kind. He/she is kind even to those unkind to him/her.
Sixthly, he/she is good. His/her thoughts are always on what is good for himself/herself and for others.
Seventhly, he/she is faithful in what he/she says or promises to others. His/her words can be trusted and relied upon.
Eighthly, he/she is gentle. He/she is amiable and tender in disposition, not harsh. This gentleness is seen even in the way the person speaks.
Ninthly, the spirit bears fruit of self-control. This applies especially to liquor or the enjoyment of sex. He/she has control of the things to enjoy. He/she enjoys in moderation.
As the fruit of the spirit we become loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled. We now have a sense of direction in our life, we feel fulfilled and happy. And other people can see this in us. We become well pleasing for them to see.
Fruits are not only delightful to the eyes. They also give nutrition to our soul and body. They give food and drink. They nourish us.
So also in the world of the spirits, there are fruits which nourish us. These are the fruits of righteousness, fruits of righteous works with which we help others. Others and we are blessed and nourished because of these good works which are the fruit of the spirit in us. We become better spirits because of these fruits of good works.
Fruits contain the seed which is needed for the reproduction of the organism. The ripe eggplant fruit contains the seeds for the further reproduction of more eggplants. The acorns contain the seed for the reproduction of more oak trees.
So also in the world of human spirits the spirit bears fruit in us which contains the seed to produce more spirits. This is the fruit referred to by Jesus when he said that we bear much fruit and that our fruit should remain.
This is the fruit of reproducing the spirit in others. It is multiplying the spirit through the seed, the Word of God. We now so possess the Word of God in ourselves that we can plant it in the hearts of other people and produce other spirits. There will be more and more spirits or spiritual persons among us.
We sow this seed of God’s Word in the hearts of those around us by teaching, preaching, witnessing, seminars, workshops, a word of advice, reading the Bible in public or in small groups, serving others, etc.
Again, we say that these fruits are the normal outcome of our spiritual maturity. No amount of moralizing or preaching or will power can produce these fruits in us and others. They just appear when the spirit in us is ready.
What began as the seed of the spirit in us, the Word of God, has now matured and bears fruit beautiful and delightful to behold, nutritious and nourishing our body and soul, and able and willing to multiply himself/herself in others.