“There are different gifts but the same God…….” (1 Cor.12:6)
When the event of Pentecost occurred almost 2000 years ago, the apostles were transformed by their “encounter” with the Holy Spirit. But in what way were they changed? The Holy Spirit didn’t make them taller, or richer, or stronger. The Holy Spirit doesn’t try to change us in these ways, because He isn’t interested in bank accounts, or the vehicles we drive, or out looks…. but only the state of our souls.
So how were the Apostles’ souls changed? What did the Apostles “get out” of their encounter with the Holy Spirit? The Apostles didn’t receive the Holy Spirit in order to help them “feel good” about their relationship with God.
Instead, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to apostles and prophets, clergy and lay people, in the first and twenty-first centuries, in order to build the Church on earth so that the members of the Church might reach Heaven. St. Paul describes the Mystical Body of Christ this way: There are different works but the same God who accomplishes all of them in every one. To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To each person, the Holy Spirit is given for the sake of the service: for the common good, in the words of St. Paul.
We – just like the first members of the Church 2000 years ago – receive the Holy Spirit in simple ways. We receive the Holy Spirit through our reading of the Bible early in the morning or late at night. We receive the Holy Spirit by devoutly accepting the Lord through the Sacraments. We receive the Holy Spirit by carrying out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy on behalf of our neighbours. But as we receive the Holy Spirit – as His presence grows in our souls – every one of the gifts that blossoms from His presence is to be laid at the feet of others.
The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Wisdom is the highest gift of the Holy Spirit, because it is the perfection of faith. Through wisdom, we come to value properly those things which we believe through faith. The truths of Christian belief are more important than the things of this world, and wisdom helps us to order our relationship to the created world properly, loving Creation for the sake of God, rather than for its own sake
Understanding, the second gift of the Holy Spirit, allows us to grasp, at least in a limited way, the very essence of the truths of the Catholic Faith. Through understanding, we gain a certitude about our beliefs that moves beyond faith.
Counsel: Through this gift we are able to judge how best to act almost by intuition. Because of the gift of counsel, Christians need not fear to stand up for the truths of the Faith, because the Holy Spirit will guide us in defending those truths.
Fortitude: Fortitude is both a gift of the Holy Spirit and a cardinal virtue. Fortitude is ranked as the fourth gift of the Holy Spirit because it gives us the strength to follow through the actions suggested by the gift of counsel. While fortitude is sometimes called courage, it goes beyond what we normally think of as courage. Fortitude is the virtue of the martyrs that allows them to suffer death rather than announce the Christian Faith. While we may not be called to be martyrs, often we called to defend our Faith through word and actions.
Knowledge: The fifth gift of the Holy Spirit, knowledge, is often confused with both wisdom and understanding. Like wisdom, knowledge is the perfection of faith, but whereas wisdom give us the desire to judge all things according to the truths of the Catholic Faith, knowledge is the actual ability to do so. Like counsel, it is aimed at our actions in this life. In a limited way, knowledge allows us to see the circumstances of our life the way that God sees them. Through this gift of the Holy Spirit, we can determine God’s purpose for our lives and live them accordingly.
Piety: This gift is the willingness to worship and to serve God. Piety takes that willingness beyond a sense of duty, so that we desire to worship God and to serve Him out of love, the way that we desire to honour our parents and do what they wish.
Fear of the Lord: This is the seventh and final gift of the Holy Spirit and perhaps no other gift of the Holy Spirit is so misunderstood. We think of fear and hope as opposites but the fear of the Lord confirms the theological virtue of hope. This gift of the Holy Spirit gives us the desire not to offend God, as well as the certainty that God will supply us the grace we need in order to keep from offending Him. Our desire not to offend God is more than a sense of duty: like piety, the fear of the Lord arises out of love.