The Spirit of the Lord
By Amanda Hudson
The fruits of the Holy Spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
We all should ask ourselves which and how many of those fruits do we experience on a regular basis. Or have we been noticing that our reactions to world and Church happenings have been different?
“Discern the spirit!” was the hugely helpful advice given in a Diocesan Theological Institute class of some years ago. The teacher noted that in addition to the Holy Spirit, we have two other spirits to look for.
First of course, we’ll know the Holy Spirit because of the fruits listed above.
The second kind of spirit comes from us — our own spirit, we might say — and produces fruits of self-centeredness and selfishness. It is not a good spirit to indulge, especially if we are serious about our faith.
The spirit that comes from the devil is, of course, even worse. It produces the opposites of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Instead of love we experience hate, not joy or peace but restlessness, anxiety and fear, not patience but anger, and so on.
We’ve all heard of instances where the devil possesses someone. But such an extreme is not the usual manner of his maneuverings. Evil most often operates clandestinely, frequently unrecognized by the souls it targets.
There’s a marvelous scene in the “Wonder Woman” film of a few years ago where the evil god of war, Ares, invisibly slides up behind a Nazi chemist and whispers an idea near her ear on how to improve the poison gas she is designing. That is the usual way of evil: hints, harmful ideas and lies about “noble” endeavors that are not at all praiseworthy. 
We are more vulnerable to Satan’s influence if we think we are knowledgeable and/or holy enough to be immune to them. That’s our prideful self-spirit talking, and it is one of the ways that makes us blind to the evil we are being tempted toward.
Temptation toward spiritual pride is one way evil attacks the Church and its most-faithful members. Everyone in every part of the Church has to be on guard and sincerely strive for a humble reliance on God and devote him or herself to all that Jesus taught, including the hard lessons. Each of us can learn more about God, none of us knows Him or His Church completely, and we are wise to remember that always.
Misinformation about the Church and its leaders, assumptions and outright lies are whispered and yelled at the Catholics who give a darn about their faith. Whether it is the coronavirus and vaccines, or Church administration, or life issues or anything else, we all have to take a breath and think about our non-Church sources of information. What is their motivation for saying what they say? Do they have expertise? Might they have a personal need to gossip or a hidden agenda? Are they showing evidence of the Holy Spirit’s fruits ... or not? Do we experience the holy fruits when we listen to them?
Some people, for example, want to be liked and will say what their listeners want to hear, even if it is inaccurate. Others have a need to keep up an image, perhaps that they are “in the know” when they aren’t. And a few just prefer their own view of things.
And so we hear rumors and speculations from other people in the pews who don’t know all the facts of a particular situation or dilemma. But they sound believable. And that is confusing and distressing for many.
Needless to say, God knows our communications, how accurate our messages are, what spirit is influencing us, and what effects result from our posts and comments. It is wise to frequently stop our flow of talk and text, step back and ponder what we can feel is happening within us and discern the spirits that are in play.
Fear is a common emotion that opens a path for non-Holy Spirit influences. And who isn’t uneasy over the many threats found in the world today?
We have to be on guard always, conscientiously working to trust Jesus more and more, turning our fears and anxieties over to Him, challenging ourselves to think before we speak and before we embrace the information that comes our way.