by f. Luis CASASUS, General Superior of the men’s branch of the Idente Missionaries
New York, 31 May, 2020. | Pentecost Sunday.
Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-11; 1 Corinthians 12,3b-7.12-13; Saint John 20:19-23.
Many natural phenomena that impress most our imagination: fire, lightning, hurricane, earthquake, thunder, are used in the Bible to describe the manifestations of God. But today’s readings may preferably suggest fire, as the flames evoke transference, transmission, radiation…
Yes, the taste they leave us is of communion, of sharing the grace received. Perhaps today is the perfect day to make us more aware that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are essentially to de shared, like happy news, a good coffee or a birthday cake (sorry for the vulgar comparison).
Fire speaks of the presence of God himself. God spoke to Moses from out of a burning bush. As the Israelites wandered through the desert on their way to the Promised Land, a pillar of cloud accompanied them by day, and a pillar of fire by night. When the first believers received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost there were some dramatic results: where before they were afraid, they now preached Christ boldly. They spoke in tongues, they healed the sick, they gave their lives rather than deny Christ. But the Spirit still works in us in less spectacular but equally remarkable ways.
When experiencing the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives, it is important to remember that all the instruments we have to progress in perfection come from Him. In particular, it is important to understand the role that talents and gifts play in our spiritual life.
It is not surprising that it is delicate to understand what talents and gifts are, for even on a purely psychological level, professionals do not completely agree. Many would agree that gifts are outstanding natural abilities which, in appropriate circumstances, develop into specific expert skills called talents.
But our spiritual experience and that of the Bible is that talents are indeed something received at the beginning of our life and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not necessarily developed talents, but can be given without necessarily being related to our natural abilities. Essentially, as we know, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are increments of Faith, Hope and Charity.
That explains, for example, why sometimes it is said informally that
Faith is a virtue and sometimes we talk about the Gift of Faith. In the latter case, we are referring rather to the Gift of Wisdom.
In any case, for both talents and spiritual gifts, there are two essential truths:
First, we are responsible for activating them. After Michelangelo died, a piece of paper was found in his studio on which the old master had written a note to his outstanding apprentice, a message that speaks eloquently of our responsibility: Draw Antonio, draw Antonio, draw and do not waste time.
Second, they are granted for the good of the community, not for personal enjoyment. An old farmer consistently won first prize at the state fair with his corn crop. Bright yellow, juicy and sweet, the corn became a legend. After a decade-long streak of winning, a reporter interviewed the farmer about his strategy. The humble man surprised everyone by admitting his method was to share his best seed corn with his neighbors.
How can you afford to share your best seed corn with the same people you
compete against every year? the reporter asked. The farmer replied: Don’t
you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will
steadily degrade the quality of my fields. If I am to grow good corn, I must
help my neighbors grow good corn.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are so essential to us that the Holy Spirit Himself has been called “the gift of God” par excellence (cf. Jn 4:10), He is a gift of God who in turn communicates different spiritual gifts to one who receives Him.
This is Benedict XVI’s accurate description of the gift of Wisdom:
The first gift of the Holy Spirit is, therefore, wisdom. However, it is not
simply about human wisdom, which is the fruit of knowledge and experience.
The Bible recounts that Solomon, at the moment of his crowning as King of
Israel, asked for the gift of wisdom (cf. 1 Kings 3:9). And wisdom in fact is
this: it is the grace to be able to see everything with the eyes of God. It is
simply this: to see the world, to see situations, circumstances, problems,
everything with God’s eyes. This is wisdom. Sometimes we see things
according to how they please us or according to the situation of our heart,
with love or with hatred, with envy. No, this is not God’s eye. Wisdom is
what the Holy Spirit does in us so that we see all things with God’s eyes. This
is the gift of wisdom (April 9, 2014).
As Benedict XVI rightly says, Wisdom allows us to see with God’s eyes but, above all, we acquire a new vision of our neighbor.
The way in which this gift of Wisdom is given is something completely free, for the Holy Spirit, like the wind, does not have to follow the laws of this world, nor even the logic of morality, that is, the measure of our little or very little faith. But it is clear that we all have experience. For example, when in a very difficult moment, of sadness, confusion or doubt, I have felt with the necessary light to understand what Christ is asking of me, or the
importance of a virtue that is proposed to me to live, or the attitude that I should have with a person who is difficult to deal with.
The gift of Fortitude. Pope Francis says that the Holy Spirit always comes to sustain us in our weakness and he does this by a special gift: the gift of fortitude.… Through the gift of fortitude, the Holy Spirit liberates the soil of our heart, he frees it from sluggishness, from uncertainty and from all the fears that can hinder it, so that Lord’s Word may be put into practice authentically and with joy. The gift of fortitude … gives us strength.”
Pope Francis says that we need this gift in extraordinary and in ordinary situations. There are difficult moments and extreme situations in which the gift of fortitude manifests itself in an extraordinary, exemplary way. This is the case with those who are facing particularly harsh and painful situations that disrupt their lives and those of their loved ones. We too, all of us, know people who experience difficult situations and great suffering. Let us think of those who have a difficult life, who fight to feed their family, to educate their children or confess their faith with the sacrifice of his life and fame. They are able to do all of this because the spirit of fortitude is helping them.
However, we need to think that the gift of fortitude is necessary not only on some occasions or in particular situations. This gift leads us daily to the new steps we must take in the journey of perfection and in the apostolate.
As shown by the martyrs who have shed their blood and the thousands of martyrs of yesterday and today who give their lives in silence, the gift of fortitude is the capacity to remain firm in hope against all pressures, even in the face of death, any kind of death: moral, with blood, in an instant or over many years.
With the gift of piety, the Spirit infuses into the believer a new capacity for love of the brethren, making his heart participate in some manner in the very meekness of the Heart of Christ, said St. John Paul II. With this gift, we can always see others as children of the same Father, called to be part of the family of God which is the Church. He feels urged to treat them with the kindness and friendliness which are proper to a frank and fraternal
We are surprised that we can love unkind people, that we are able to love at times where we do not feel strong, that we can forgive seventy times seven without hesitation. The gift of piety further extinguishes in the heart those fires of tension and division which are bitterness, anger and impatience, and nourishes feelings of understanding, tolerance, and pardon. Such a gift is, therefore, at the root of that new human community which is based on the civilization of love. Do we need more reasons to understand that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for others, for the community?
But, above all, the gift of piety stirs in us gratitude and praise to God. The gifts of the Spirit are not an arbitrary prize, a kind of reward. When they are granted to us it is because they are totally indispensable for the accomplishment of God’s will at that moment.
Not only must I think that the gifts I receive are for the good of my neighbor. I must also think that other people, with a moral life perhaps as poor as mine, are unexpectedly gifted with admirable gifts. We are used to judging others, to contemplating them only with a human eye, and we are not sensitive to the intimate miracles that the Spirit works in them. And that presence of the Holy Spirit in my brother, is also for me, it is also a message that God is sending me with his work in my neighbor.
The following story will help me to remember that I must trust in the gifts given by the Holy Spirit to my neighbor, which are surely different from those I have been able to receive:
There was a man in India who, hearing from his guru that God was present in everything, went for a stroll in the jungle. Suddenly, a huge elephant emerged from the undergrowth followed closely by his trainer. The trainer was shouting: The elephant is mad! Run for your life! But knowing that God was present in the elephant, the man continued on his path, paying scant heed. The elephant trumpeted and charged. Alarmed, the man reminded himself, God is present in the elephant. But the elephant kept coming. At the last second, the man leapt aside. A narrow escape. The elephant charged on into the jungle. Shaken, the man returned to his guru for an explanation. I could have been killed on the spot! Was not God in the elephant? The guru replied: Yes. But why didn’t you think that God was also present in the trainer?
The work of the Holy Spirit in us ensures that despite our divergence in opinions and sentiments, we could still come and live together. We could even become better when we are together, because the insufficiency of one is resolved by the unique giftedness of the other.
After having twice addressed them the greeting: Peace be with you! Jesus gives His Spirit to the disciples and confers them the power to forgive sins. They are sent to fulfill a mission: As the Father has sent me, so I send you.
The mission that Jesus entrusts to his disciples is to forgive sins, thus continuing his work as the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29).
What does it mean to forgive sins? With these words, the apostles were granted the power to absolve from sins. But it is not the only way to forgive; The rights conferred by Jesus is cover all the disciples who are animated by his Spirit: it is that of cleansing the world of every form of evil. This form of participation in the redemption of humanity is a proof of His unconditional love, and of His faith and hope in us.