May 28, 2010

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Gifts of the Holy Spirit help us know Jesus in a personal way

The recent celebration of Pentecost Sunday might serve as a timely reminder to reflect about the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: “The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit” (#1830).

“The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations” (#1831).

I don’t think there are many of us baptized Catholics who are not somewhat intimidated by the call to holiness. We may forget that God, who calls us to holiness in Christ, also gives us the help we need to say “yes” to his call and to respond as faithfully as we can.

That’s what the catechism means when it says the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit makes us “docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.”

Needless to say, this challenges us to be intentional in our belief that God can and does want to help us live holy lives. This kind of intention is born and thrives if, in fact, we are faithful in our desire to seek a personal friendship, an intimate relationship with God.

Our knowledge of Jesus as we find him in the Word of God, the Gospels in particular, gives us the foundation for friendship with Jesus, and through him with God our Father.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit shore up and strengthen our efforts to get to know Jesus in a personal way. The Holy Spirit gives us the confidence to become friends with Jesus even as we are keenly aware of our own inadequacy and unworthiness.

The feast of Pentecost affirms that Jesus promised the Spirit of Truth, whose mission is to illumine the whole Church.

In their document on the word of God (“Dei Verbum”), the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said: “Jesus completed and perfected Revelation and confirmed it with divine guarantees. He did this by the total fact of his presence and self-manifestation, by words and works, signs and miracles … and by sending the Spirit of truth” (#4).

Pope Paul VI, in his landmark document on evangelization (“Evangelii nuntiandi”), said: “The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. It is he who explains to the faithful the deep meaning of the teaching of Jesus and of his mystery” (#75).

The Spirit’s gift of understanding enables us to have at least an inkling of the deeper meaning of our faith, which comes from Christ. Through the gift of understanding, the Holy Spirit leads us to get some grasp of the awesome mystery of our Christian faith.

The author of In Conversation with God, Opus Dei Father Francis Fernandez, comments that, “The gift of knowledge enables man to understand created things as signs which lead to God, and the meaning of their elevation to the supernatural order. Through the world of nature and grace the Holy Spirit enables us to perceive and contemplate the infinite wisdom, power and goodness of God. … Like the gifts of understanding and of wisdom, the gift of knowledge is a contemplative gift enabling us to see into the very mystery of God” (Vol. 2, p. 544).

Father Fernandez writes that the Holy Spirit’s gift of wisdom gives us a loving, penetrating faith, and a clarity and understanding of the unfathomable mystery of God, which we never thought possible. He cites as examples the sense of God’s presence and nearness of God or the Real Presence of Christ in the tabernacle, which gives us an extraordinary happiness (cf. Vol. 2. p. 553).

What about the Holy Spirit’s gift of counsel? We can be confident that when we are confronted with the need to make decisions about living our Christian faith and morals, our natural and supernatural gifts of prudence and our common sense are supported by the gift of counsel. We are supported by the Holy Spirit in making practical decisions.

The gift of fortitude strengthens the confidence we have that, in the challenges of life and of faith, God is with us. The Holy Spirit gives us the help to face life’s difficulties with courage.

I think the gift of fear of the Lord is the gift of affirming our humility in acknowledging the unquestionable fact that we need God in day-to-day life. The gift of piety inspires us to appreciate with profound love our being daughters and sons of God our Father, and brothers and sisters of Jesus. †

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