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Ministries, Charisms, Fruits - 19 Goodness

Friday, June 12, 2009
St. Paul puts goodness, or, as some translations have it, generosity, fifth in his lists of the fruits of the Spirit. That there should be such a close correspondence between Paul’s understanding of goodness and his understanding of generosity, such that it could be translated either way, is interesting because it demonstrates the importance of generosity for the Jewish view of God.

So many of the psalms extol the Lord as worthy of praise because of his generosity, praising him at length for all the great gifts that he gives to man and beast. Psalm 104 in particular, the psalm which is used in one of the prayers used as grace before meals, praises God as good because he is the giver of all that sustains every living thing. This overwhelming generosity of God is shown most profoundly in the saving death of his Son, Our Lord, on the cross, what is for St. Paul the most important moment in history, the most generous self-giving of the Son to the Father in love. 

Thus for Christians, to be good is to give of ourselves so as to help others, not only when it suits us and is convenient, and not only to those who are good to us in return, but to all those who are in need. To do this we need the gift of the Spirit, for we cannot live such an extraordinary life, as the bearer of God’s life and love to others, through our own effort alone. 

To be good does take effort, we must co-operate with the grace that God so freely bestows upon us and renews in us through prayer and the sacraments, but in our pursuit of the life of virtue we are not left to fend for ourselves, for we have an advocate, a lawyer for our defence, the Spirit, to fight our corner. The Spirit as our advocate pleads insistently on our behalf for the heavenly judge to declare our goodness against the merciless cross-examination of Satan, the great accuser, who seeks to make us despair on account of our sins, and so to flee from God’s mercy.

Let us always remember that to be good is to be humble, for the greatest sin is that of pride, pride that hardens our hearts and stops us from asking for forgiveness and mercy.  The good person is the person who, by the light of the Holy Spirit, recognises their sinfulness and asks the Lord for forgiveness, confident in the mercy of the Lord who is love.

Daniel Mary Jeffries OP


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