Growing in Virtue

Challenge: Make three acts of charity today.
by Father Paul Campbell, LC | Source:

September 13, 2008
Saint John Chrysostom, bishop. Memorial.

Luke 6: 43-49
Jesus said to his disciples: "A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' but not do what I command? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built. But the one who listens and does not act is like a person who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, thank you for this time with you. I need you in my life. Don’t let me just wander off on my own and do my own thing apart from you. I want you to be my preoccupation. Like Martha’s sister, Mary, I want to sit at your feet and listen to you. Speak Lord, your servant is listening.

Petition: Lord, grant that I may become a person of prayer.

1. Good Fruit
Every tree is known by its fruit. A good tree will bear good fruit. Jesus draws on common knowledge to teach us a spiritual lesson. How do we know that we are growing in our lives of prayer or in our spiritual lives? We may be accustomed to measure things by how we feel: We feel that today we had a good stretch of prayer or that yesterday things were dry and difficult. How do we know if we’ve had good prayer? We look at the disposition of our will. Is our will more identified with Christ and more accepting of our mission? Are we resolved to live more virtuous lives? Prayer should leave a mark on our actions so that we can see the good fruit of virtue in our lives – more faith, hope and love. If the resolution of our will does not lead to action, then perhaps our will is not resolved. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be difficulties along the way. There is not always the perfect forward trajectory. Sometimes there will be two steps forward and one step back.

2. Listening to the Word
The first step forward is to listen to Christ – to have a disposition of openness to God and to his will in our life. Sometimes we can be so focused on our will that we give little attention or thought to how God might weigh a given issue. Other times we may be so busy that we don’t have time for God. When we do make time for prayer, either we do all the talking, so he doesn’t have the chance to get a word in, or our mind is so cluttered with a thousand preoccupations that we can’t hear him at all. We need to acquire the self-discipline to make some quiet time in our lives when we can be alone with God and give him our full attention. “Speak Lord your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).

3. Acting on the Word
Once we hear God and understand what he is asking of us, then we need to do it. We need to put that foot forward and take that step. We might not know all the steps that God wants us to take; but it is enough to know the first step and then take it. We may be inclined to demand that God make a full disclosure of all his intentions before we’ll commit to the first little bit, but God seeks our obedience. It is not enough to know what to do; we need to do it. This is the foundation of our spiritual lives. We need to reflect on the concrete acts of faith, hope and love that God wants us to live today.

Dialogue with Christ: Lord, thank you for your patience and goodness. Help me to make a permanent decision to build a solid life of prayer – time every day when I can be alone with you and listen to you speak in the depths of my heart. Increase my faith in your presence in my life. Open my heart that I might hear you and embrace your will in my life.

Resolution: I will make three acts of charity today. 

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