By Archbishop Henry D’Souza
The Holy Spirit dwelling in us produces many fruits. St. Paul mentions them in Gal.5/22-23. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. On the other hand anger, violence, hatred, jealousy and drunkenness are the fruits of the evil spirit. Today we seem daily to experience so much the fruits of the evil spirit. We could even forget the quality and power of the Holy Spirit. Let us reflect for a while on the fruit of gentleness.
Our Lady was gentle. In the hymn we sing to her, “Gentle Lady, Gentle Mother”. Gentleness may appear to be weak and impractical. Yet it often requires much courage to remain gentle. Gentleness is more than kindness. It adds graciousness and a special flavour to human action. Mary was gentle with Joseph. She adjusted herself to his decisions to go to Bethlehem, to Egypt and to return to Nazareth. Mary was gentle with Jesus even when she did not understand his actions or his words. At such times she just pondered them in her heart. Mary was gentle in Cana of Galilee. Seeing the hosts in embarrassment, she approached Jesus for a favour saying, “They have no wine”. Her action was so delicate that the host did not know how the water was changed into wine. So discreet was her behaviour that she gave no sign of her intervention.
We tend to lose the value of gentleness in the harsh and rough social dealings of today. We also can become hard and insensitive in our dealings. We could become revengeful to those who hurt us and manifest anger on those who annoy us. Many times we are called to be tolerant and to forgive in order to remain gentle.
Let us recall the story of the Prodigal’s Son. Henri Nouwen on writing about the story notes the famous painting of Rembrandt – The Return of the Prodigal. The father has his hands on the shoulders of the prodigal son. The left hand is open wide and the thumb is pressing on the shoulder as it holds it. The right hand has all the fingers together and is laid on the shoulder as if to soothe and to caress. The left hand seems to hold and strengthen the vulnerable and sick self of the prodigal son. The right hand is comforting and consoling the young man.
Reflecting on this painting, Henri Nouwen talks of the left hand as indicating a masculine God – the Father, strong and firm holding his wayward son. The right hand seems to reflect God as Mother – caressing and loving the boy. He recalls the Psalm, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have carved you on the palm of my hand”.
These reflections of Henri Nouwen become an invitation to the son to become like the Father. The son too is called to offer strength to others and to comfort those who are in sorrow. The hands of the father on the prodigal son are an example of what human hands must offer to the neighbour – both the masculine strength and the feminine gentleness.
These reflections of Henri Nouwen are very inspiring. Called to gentleness and aware that gentleness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, we want to respond with earnest prayer begging for this grace. Often we will find reason for anger, for revenge or for violence. But these are the fruits of the evil spirit. The Holy Spirit invites us to grow in forgiveness, understanding and gentleness.
At the end of this reflection, if we want to recall some person or persons whom we find it hard to love, or to whom we are harsh and rude. We may want to raise our hands in our minds and extend them a gentle gesture of blessing and forgiveness. We can grow in gentleness with such inspiring movements. The Holy Spirit will give us the fruit of gentleness.
As we contemplate Mary, gentle woman and gentle mother, we want to ask her blessing and help. May she help us to grow in gentleness by her example and intercession while the Holy Spirit conforms us and transforms our hearts by his powerful grace.