The Feast of Pentecost, The Holy Spirit and The Seven Gifts: Why it Matters
Today more than ever we dig deep within to center ourselves around calm and inner peace. We don’t do this to tranquilize ourselves. We do this to be in the best possible position to live fully. For believers, this includes seeking a real growing relationship with God. There is a dance going on between our decisions and actions and God’s involvement in our lives, a dance which we call grace. We have freedom and gifts. God has insight, power and ingenuity. If we consent to His involvement in our lives, He can move us into positive places we cannot even imagine.
The person of the Trinity whom we identify as a creative and loving agent of action and change is the Holy Spirit. This person is believed to be the action of God in the world — both visible and invisible. One of the names for the Holy Spirit is the Paraclete. This is an ancient Greek word meaning “one who consoles, uplifts, comforts.” In the New Testament it also is translated as “helper” and “advocate.” The Holy Spirit or Paraclete is the divine reality whom we celebrate on Pentecost. “Pentecost” comes from the word “pente” meaning fifty which refers to 50 days after Easter. At the Last Supper Jesus said he was going to send us the Paraclete. He let us know that this third person of the Trinity, who expresses the love between the Father and the Son, would be the spirit of Christ operative in the created world — that we would not be alone.
On Pentecost we focus on God as Paraclete in the world of space and time, of the particulars of life. The Paraclete comforts and uplifts us by working in us and in our lives to give us greater holiness and power for good in the world. We speak of the work the Paraclete does in us as the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. We are going to take a look at all seven in a series of posts. In the Bible there are a number of lists of spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit. They can be found in Isaiah 11, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, and 1 Peter. These are all indeed gifts of the Paraclete, but many of the “gifts” in these texts are roles and leadership skills that are gifted by God. The Seven Gifts on which we will focus are basic qualities that all human persons need no matter what they do in life. We are given these seven gifts at baptism but the Sacrament of Confirmation gives us to grace to live these fully out in the world of decision and action.
Knowledge is the first gift we will consider. In the everyday world we use knowledge constantly. It matters that I know how to get my car fixed or that it is important to check the oil periodically. A dentist needs to know how to work on my teeth. Knowledge as a gift of the Paraclete who wants to help us grow fully first includes the knowledge of God. As we mature we will know God more and will also develop in our images, concepts, and feelings about God. We will come to know ourselves better and better as well. To the extent that we are open we will come to more and more realistic and energizing knowledge of God and ourselves. If we fear God we may learn more positive things about God — maybe from talking to others. If we are depressed we may find out why. Much of this knowledge is from God. We think we are learning on our own. But, in fact, it is the Paraclete who is offering us knowledge all the time. We have resistances in us and God is working all the time to help us see the truth, often a positive truth. God presents ideas to us from different angles constantly and we can consent to be open to these prompts. My eye may fall on a magazine in the doctor’s office and suddenly I can feel myself slightly more inclined to actually do exercise every day. The ideas in the article, the knowledge, may have made it easier to see how I can move into a new life skill.
Knowledge of others is also a great gift. I may not know why a neighbor or relative is so hard for me to get along with and then find out that he is in pain all the time. I may then find out that the medication he is on has terrible side effects from a commercial on television. Or, I may find out that an adult school near me has a watercolor class that is very reasonable in price. I may need that for my emotional life. The Paraclete is gifting us with knowledge internally and from external sources all the time. We only need to consent to not try to control what the this Consoler sends our way. God sees us totally and knows what we need. We can practice a daily Examen or a time of reflection on how things are going and ask to see what we need to see. In that way we can receive the gift of knowledge and become more fully who we were born to be.