The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Feb 13, 2019
If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it;
if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.
One of the milestones of my grade school experience was attending camp in sixth grade. For one week during the sixth grade year it was required we all go to camp. Camp 40 Legends was operated by a man named Caesar and his wife. It was near Washington, MO. Saint Ambrose would join Rossman School - a school I’d never heard of - who knew it was just down the road from the monastery. One of the activities was a team-building exercise where we all had to climb into a 30-foot climbing tower - a large box structure. We had to help each other climb into the tower and get back out again. It was a large fence-type structure with nothing to grab onto. So, we each had to figure out how to get each other up on the edge of a side of the box and climb over. Then once we were inside, we were to help one another climb out again. So, we all had to work together using the different physical gifts of each student.
Saint Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians teaches us about the gifts of the Holy Spirit working in the community. He urges the Church to recognize the gifts each member has in the community. Our Heavenly Father has given us all unique gifts and this shouldn’t be an excuse to become jealous or suspicious of one another, but to work together in the community to build up the Body of Christ. In chapter 13 and 14 of this same letter, Saint Paul develops the idea of these gifts with the goodness that Christian love surpasses all other gifts. All the gifts of the Spirit are built up on each other.
It is true in any human society or community, there will be some disagreements and different ways of thinking. But these shouldn’t stifle the work of the Spirit moving within the community, giving life to the society and building up the whole with each individual person into the one. These differences in gifts and charisms shouldn’t lead to gossiping or arguing or jealousy, which because of our sinfulness and weakness is undoubtedly bound to happen to some degree. But these gifts should all be shared in love for Christ, which is who everything is about in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.
In history, warring countries were known to sow salt in the farmland soil of their enemies in order to make the ground completely infertile. Good soil needs salts to be strong and healthy and produce. But when soil has too much salt, it sucks moisture out of the plant, instead of the other way around. In salted soil, then, the plant may be rooted in moist and nutritious soil, but it can’t absorb any water. The salt separates it from what is most needed in the soil to make it fruitful.
In communities the Devil thrives in sowing salt in the soil in the hearts of families, the Church, parishes, other communities - indeed the whole human family. He doesn’t want to see us grow and be fruitful, to be at peace, to grow in the life of Christ, to know, love, and serve Him and to be with Him in glory. He sows seeds of selfishness and suspicion and envy and anger and all the other kinds of attacks on the spiritual life that drain out the life of human happiness - trust, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, kindness, patience. Division is the work of the Devil. Reconciliation and unity is the work of Christ.
These spiritual gifts in the community of trust and self-sacrifice and so on will have to be rooted in love but also humility. In building up the community, sometimes there will have to be change and culling in order for there to bring life. All progress and change should always be inspired by grace and ordered to the Good that is God and His glory.
The great Catholic fiction writer Flannery O’Connor says,
“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”