The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Read time: 14.5 minutes
With Pentecost and the feast of the Trinity behind us it seemed to me a good time to reflect briefly on how the Holy Spirit wants to express God’s goodness through the faithful. Dr. Mary Healy, in the Evangelization Bible study I attended last year, said that the Holy Spirit works in the church in 2 primary ways. First through leading the hierarchy of the church, and secondly through his charisms (gifts) given to the all the faithful. It is the second way that I want to highlight today.
Years ago I heard Fr John Hampsch teach about these gifts. He wrote many books and was in great demand as a conference speaker. The particular gifts he explained are the charismatic gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:4–11 as written below. It would normally take about an hour to share these teachings so this will be very abbreviated. Hopefully this will help you to be more mindful of the Holy Spirit as you go about your daily routines.
“4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”
The first gift is listed as the utterance of wisdom. This is not general wisdom but rather an instant knowing of what to do in a particular situation in a particular time. In other words the Holy Spirit puts in the persons mind what the right course of action is … to address a particular situation. Solomon was described in the Bible as the wisest man that ever lived, but his wisdom was a worldly wisdom and in the end he did not do well. He ended up worshiping pagan gods and leaving his faith. His wisdom is not what St. Paul is referring to here. Nor is he referring to wisdom that comes from a life’s experience. When we receive wisdom for a particular situation it is easy for us to think that we had a good idea when indeed it was the Holy Spirit leading us. For example, I felt like I needed to pray for a particular person at the parish one evening but did not know how to approach the person. The words “marital relationship” came to my mind. This made no sense to me, knowing the person was single, but I follow the prompting and to my surprise she was much relieved. She said she had prayed that someone would talk to her about her marital situation from years ago (that I knew nothing about). It was clear to me that this was the Holy Spirit since I had no knowledge of her past.
The second gift is listed as the utterance of knowledge. This is not knowledge we might get in school or a seminar, or the type of knowledge that a teacher needs in order to do his or her job. Once again this gift is given by the Holy Spirit in a particular situation in which the recipient suddenly knows something that he or she did not know before. I was praying for a person and had noticed that she was going from prayer group to prayer group and seemed to be unable to find the peace she was looking for. As I looked at her the word “unforgiveness” came to my mind. So I asked her if there was someone that she had never forgiven. Reluctantly she said yes and after doing so she found the peace she was looking for. I had never met this lady before and knew nothing about her. She knew this and concluded that I could not have known the root of the problem except that the Holy Spirit was at work. This enabled her to trust and forgive.
The third gift listed is the word of faith. Once again this is not referring to the gift of faith that leads to initial conversion, or the ongoing practice of the faith, or even our personal faith that leads us to prayer each day. Jesus says that if we have the faith the size of the mustard seed we could say to a tree “be uprooted and go into the ocean” and it would obey. The kind of faith Jesus is referring to is not possible through those everyday expressions of faith. The charism of faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit given to a person at a particular time in a particular situation so that the recipient will have the faith required to accomplish what seems impossible. Twice in my life I received this faith. The first time I was a new Catholic and did not know anything about the gift of faith. A friend of ours had discovered she had cancer and that her prognosis was not good. At this time I did not know how to pray. However the gift of faith came upon me so strongly that I knew for certain that my prayers had been answered and she had been healed and I started to celebrate the good news. Now the next morning I was not so sure … since the gift was given for that particular time, in the morning it seemed to be gone. However within 2 weeks it was confirmed by the doctor that her cancer was gone. Within a few months she and her husband were signed up in the RCIA classes and went from non-believers to Christians in a short time. And so God accomplished what seemed impossible to me through the gift of faith given through the Holy Spirit.
The gift of healing and miracles are probably more easily understood. It is clear to most of us that these gifts are actions of God and not something that we can do. However He does choose to do these through the faithful and often times the gift of faith is involved. These gifts seemed to me to be completely out of my reach and yet I have seen the Holy Spirit do both, mostly when I was really not expecting it. An example of a little miracle I could share exemplifies God’s desire to be involve in all the aspects of our lives. My wife was suffering from a bad back and could not sleep. I had a desire to help her but what could I do. She wanted me to find the hot water bottle but it was nowhere to be found. I did find an old electric heating pad that had not worked for years. I tried to get it to work but to no avail. Finally, since no one was looking, I put my hand over the controls and prayed. When I was finished the light was on and the pad was heating up. It continued to work for years afterwards.
The gift of prophesy is primarily given to encourage, to edify, or console those that listen to the one who speaks. Often time the person speaking does not know ahead of time what he or she is going to say. The words simply come to mind as the person speaks. Occasionally some words come that define future events. We had a Catholic evangelist come to Grande Prairie when my wife was with child. He prayed for the child and with a big smile said “this child will be a child of righteousness”. At the time we did not know that the child would be a very loving special needs child who often sees angels in dreams. His words were a great encouragement to me in the years that followed.
The gift of distinguishing of spirits is once again a gift that the Holy Spirit brings at particular times and situations which enable the recipient to determine when an evil spirit, or a human spirit, or the Holy Spirit is at work … sometimes in another person and sometimes in an event or location. This gift is often at work in intercessors, and people who are involve in the deliverance ministries, or prayer ministries. This is a very helpful gift and often defines how to pray in various situations. This seems to be the gift that the Holy Spirit gives me the most often. Most of the time it shows me how to pray when praying for others.
The gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues is a wonder full gift which can be broken down into different categories of tongues according to Fr John. There is praying in tongues, singing in tongues, speaking other languages as a sign to the unsaved, and interpretation of tongues. Once when driving down resources road I heard on the news about a 24 year old man who slipped under the wheels of a train and lost both his legs. This really struck me and I did not know what to pray. My heart went out to him and suddenly words that I did not understand came out of my mouth and with those words came a peace and a deeper sense of prayer that I was not familiar with. I often pray in tongues now especially if I am not sure what to pray.
While the descriptions above are very short and incomplete it does demonstrate, I hope, that the relationship we are called to with the Holy Spirit is very concrete and interactive. There are more gifts of the Holy Spirit than the ones listed here but these were specifically listed by St Paul as gifts that build up the church. The way that most Christians I know have entered into these gifts is through something called the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The life in the Spirit seminar and the Alpha program were two short courses that we had in the parish for many years that helped people enter into this empowering experience. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not referring to the sacrament of baptism but is a subsequent experience that leads the participants into a closer walk with the Holy Spirit.
The El Shaddai prayer group currently have a short form of the Life in the Spirit seminar that they host once per year. If you have questions call the parish office and they could help you get in touch with me. In addition you could come to the monthly healing service and ask the prayer team to pray that you receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.