The Catechism teaches us that, “the fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory” (1832). These fruits — charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, modesty, self-control, and chastity all help us grow deeper in relationship with each other and our Lord. Their importance in the Christian life, and how we live them out, is paramount to our eternal salvation. One fruit in particular was significant to Pope St. John Paul II’s teachings on Theology of the Body; faithfulness is spoken about twenty-seven times throughout the great work. And by turning to the words of Christ, as John Paul II always calls us to do, we can understand why.
Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him (JN 6: 53-55, 66).
These words of Christ bring us to the source and summit of our faith, and indeed we must have faith, we must show faithfulness to this teaching if we are to join Him in eternal glory. There is no teaching by Christ that is more challenging to understand than this, but be not afraid for as the Catechism teaches us — the fruits are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us. What do we have to fear if God himself is forming in us the necessary attributes for eternal glory? As Peter responds when Jesus asked them if they also wished to leave, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (JN 6: 68-69). Through St. Peter’s example, we see that our faith in the Eucharist precedes our faith of all things true, good, and beautiful.
Whether this is your first year, or your twentieth year of teaching, I encourage you to open yourself more fully to the fruit of faithfulness, as you welcome your students back into the classroom. Have faith that our Lord has called you to this vocation of education, where you are able to help your students see that they are unconditionally loved and made in God’s image and likeness. But first, and foremost, be faithful to Christ for He has the words of eternal life.
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