As members of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals we have all received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. During this experience of being prayed over for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our lives, we were asked if there were any particular gifts of the Spirit that we would like to receive. And from the sharings during commitment night and in our action groups later on, we know that many, if not all of us, were blessed with these gifts.
During the open forum before the Praying for the Gifts, we often hear these questions: What really is a spiritual gift? How do I know if I have received a gift? What kind of gift should I ask for? Do I need the spiritual gifts, I’m not sure that I want them!
What are spiritual gifts? Simply stated, they are manifestations of God’s power at work in our life, to make us aware of His Presence. This is one way that the Holy Spirit reveals his presence in our lives – through the gifts that He bestows on us. They are also signs so that others will believe and grow in faith. Spiritual gifts are intended to equip a Christian for service to God in family, community, workplace, parish, to our neighbors near and far. The gifts also help us understand the things freely given us by God because only the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God.
Many Are the Gifts
Many are the gifts we receive during the rite of baptism/renewal of the Holy Spirit, however, many of us are not aware that we have received the gifts and therefore don’t believe we have them. Instances of experiencing the gifts of miracles, of healing and of faith (intercessory prayer) are fairly ordinary occurrences in the Catholic charismatic renewal. Do we consider being able to serve others, or having a knack of encouraging others to live as Christians, or sharing our time, money and possessions with the less fortunate as gifts of the Holy Spirit? Yes, they are. Scriptures, the Word of God, tells us that indeed they are His gifts. Let’s take a look at some of the many gifts mentioned in the Bible.
The prophet Isaiah gives us the first list of seven gifts available to those who follow Jesus: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (Is 11:2-3). These gifts strengthen each individual Christian and help us grow in faith.
St. Paul presents us a list of nine charismatic gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. They are the teaching gifts of wisdom and knowledge, the sign gifts of faith, healing, and miracles, and the revelation gifts of discernment of spirits, prophecy, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. These gifts are given with the purpose of strengthening the faith community.
Other spiritual gifts are mentioned in the New Testament letters written to the early churches in Rome (Romans 12:6-8), in Ephesus (Eph. 4:7, 11-12), and in Corinth (1 Cor. 6:1-5, 12:10; 2 Cor. 1:3-4). Still more gifts are mentioned in Peter, James, Timothy, and the letter to the Hebrews. These gifts of practical use include administration, encouragement, sharing, showing mercy, shepherding, service, evangelism, teaching, discernment and faith. Some of these gifts are for everyday use (evangelism, serving, showing mercy, encouragement, etc.) while others may be for a particular/special use (prophecy, miracles, discernment of spirits, etc.).
Building Up The Body of Christ
Jesus tells us that “God does not ration his gift of the Spirit.” (John 3:34). This means that every one of us has access to these gifts; we are to use the gifts as we need them to help others. St Paul teaches us that the main purpose of the gifts of the Spirit is to build up the church – the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:7). Vatican II’s “Dogmatic Constitution of the Church” states:
“It is not only through the sacraments and Church ministries that the Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the people of God and enriches it with virtues. Allotting His gifts “to everyone according as he wills”, He distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. By these gifts He makes them fit and ready to undertake the various tasks and offices advantageous for the renewal and upbuilding of the Church. … These charismatic gifts, whether they be the most outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation, for they are exceedingly suitable and useful for the needs of the Church.” (no. 12).
Each one of us, and all of us collectively, then have the great responsibility of knowing what gifts the Holy Spirit has given us and of using these gifts not merely for our personal gratification but for the strengthening of the Body of Christ – the Church, our parish, The Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals.
Why Are We Not Using The Gifts?
BCBP Spiritual Director Fr. Herb Schneider in one of his talks several years ago observed that “there are many, many charismatic prayer groups that hardly experience and exercise the gifts. Many of the groups have received a wonderful gift of praise and worship. … But one hardly hears a prophetic word, a message in tongues with interpretation or a simple short, inspired word of encouragement or exhortation. Can this be one of the reasons why some groups do not grow, but survive for a while and then slowly dwindle and fade out?”
In our chapter assemblies and in our action group meetings, how often do we hear a prophetic word, or a word of wisdom, or a message in tongues with interpretation? Perhaps we are not exercising the gifts available to use because we simply do not understand these gifts very well.
Take for instance, the gift of prophecy… It is a common belief that having the gift of prophecy means that you can tell what is going to happen in the future. Some of the O.T. prophets did speak of future events but most of the time proclaimed the message of the need for a change of heart, of the need to follow God’s commandments, or a message of encouragement to lift up the spirits of the people as they experienced difficult times. Prophecy today in charismatic gatherings is a message from God spoken clearly and persuasively, encouraging the group (the Body of Christ) to obey God perhaps in a certain area of spiritual growth. A prophecy always brings people closer to the mind of God.
a. Do I feel comfortable using this gift?
b. Have others said that I seem to have this gift? Sometimes others recognize our gifts sooner than we do.
c. Does God bless others, especially the Body of Christ, when I use this gift?
d. Does use of this gift bring me a feeling of joy and peace?
If you can answer “yes” to all four questions, then you have discovered your gift or gifts!
Using Our Spiritual Gifts
Above all, what is needed is our strong and unwavering faith that the Holy Spirit will provide us the gift that we most need exactly when we most need it. We should pray every morning when we awake for the Holy Spirit to make his gifts manifest in our lives during the day in a way that will build up and strengthen us personally, and as importantly, the Body of Christ present in our families, our neighbourhood, our marketplace, our parish and in the BCBP.
During Christmas and birthdays we receive gaily wrapped packages. Do we open them immediately, or do we keep them unopened in a special place to preserve the beauty of their wrapping? During our baptism in the Holy Spirit, we received many gifts of the Holy Spirit. Are we using these gifts, or are we still reluctant to open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit in us? In other words, have we allowed ourselves openness to the transformative changes/gifts that can be ours through the Holy Spirit?
Receiving a gift is one thing. Opening and using the gift as it is meant to be used is another thing. Are you opening and using the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit has given you?