Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. (1 Cor 12:4-11)
I love hearing this Pentecost reading, because it revives me in knowing that each of us is given some manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Maybe you possess one of these gifts, which is abundantly clear, or perhaps you feel like you’ve missed your tongue of fire. But remember – the lesson of Pentecost is three-fold.
#1.) This means EVERYONE!
After the Ascension of Christ, Mary and the Apostles were left with the promise and anticipation of the descent of the Holy Spirit. Gathered together in a small room on Pentecost, the band of followers were baptized and transformed – by the Holy Spirit, giving them an extraordinary power of Christian witness, that all of us can possess. Before special effects, there was the Holy Spirit, in all his awesome glory! Imagine the scene; the “violent wind” filling the room, joy and fear coursing through the veins of all present, and then tongues of fire resting upon each of them. Tongues (as in, not connected to mouths) of FIRE! If that doesn’t give you something to witness about, I don’t know what will.
Paul does not mince words in his first letter to the Corinthians, concerning spiritual gifts. He stresses that EVERYONE is given a manifestation of the Spirit.
Yes, that means the annoying co-worker, the lady down the street, and the person at church who drives you crazy. No, their spiritual gifts are not boasting, condemning, and criticizing, although they may be very good in those areas. Believe it or not, they have a spiritual gift…and so do you! Perhaps undiscovered, as a Christian you have received more power than you know when you received baptism, when you repent, and when you call upon the Holy Spirit.
Wisdom. Understanding. Counsel. Knowledge. Fortitude. Piety. Fear of the Lord.
I think we can all agree that we would have the last gift covered if we saw a tongue of fire rest upon us, but what about the rest? Have you asked the Lord what gift He has given specifically to you? Do you use those gifts for the common good?
Pope John Paul II used to pray for each person he encountered every day of his life. In my opinion that virtue could fall into just about every category of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As well, it is an example of how we can better receive others as members of the same body of Christ, rather than immediately condemning and discounting them. If we fill our first thoughts with prayer rather than frustration, there is little room to discount them because they are a weaker member of the body. “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”.
#2.) Focus on my Gift and be Faithful
Have you every experienced spiritual jealousy? You know, where you look around at everyone in a prayer meeting speaking in tongues, and after you get past the fact that they are neither insane or drunk, wonder why you are not similarly moved by the Spirit? Why are you not flopping around on the floor like a fish after getting prayed over? Did the tongue of fire miss you?
The fact is that there are a “variety” of gifts, services, and activities given to each one of us uniquely as the Spirit chooses. I don’t need to be running around in circles trying on everyone else’s gifts. I just need to be faithful to using the gifts that the Lord has given to me, and to be His witness.
It is so easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing and how awesome they seem to be. I look at moms who are able to get a million kids in (and out of) the car every day to go to daily Mass, and I feel like I should be able to round-up my small tribe to go just around the corner and back. But alas, this may not be what God is calling me to right now. In fact, I am sure that on most days we would be far less holy by the time we got back from church.
And I would love a holy hour with the Lord every day. Oh man, would I love that! But, sitting down to take a holy minute the other day allowed me to discover that the kiddie nail scissors are sharper than you might think and they also cut hair…my hair.
#3.) For the Common Good
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good”. Didn’t anyone tell Paul that there is nothing appealing about the common good? I mean, why would I want anything attributed to me and my awesomeness getting lost in the vacuum of the common good anyway? Our motivation has become wealth, power, and recognition. It is a foreign concept to digest that our gifts are not our own, even if it is Christ to whom they belong. These gifts are given to us for a purpose; that we might glorify Him and bring non-believers to do the same. We must, gulp, decrease.
“But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body”. What the? Did he get that right? Honor to the…the…inferior? Believe it or not, Christianity is not backwards, we are.
I have always been drawn toward mysticism and the mystical gifts of saints such as Padre Pio. But with the awesome manifestation of the Spirit uniquely upon these saints, also came terrible suffering and trials. St. Bernadette was given the gift of healing, but this was only for the common good and was not to be used for herself when she became terminally ill. St. Thomas More was given the gift of fortitude, which was questioned as stubborn pride in costing him his life. His fortitude however has been a great witness to the Church.
You must increase, I must decrease.
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