Pentecost and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
by Kathryn Marcellino, OCDS
This year Pentecost Sunday falls on May 27. Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the twelve apostles, the Blessed Mother, and other followers of Jesus as described in the Acts of the Apostles 2:1-31. For this reason, Pentecost is sometimes referred to as the "birthday of the Church."
As Catholic Christians we have received the Holy Spirit at baptism and also have been sealed and strengthened in the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of confirmation. We also received the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit such as those mentioned in Isaiah 11:1-3. More will be said about these later.
Besides the gifts we received at our baptism and confirmation, God also gives special charisms (charism here means gifts, favors, graces). These charisms empower those who receive them for building up of the church and for the Church's mission to the world. The Bible says there are many different kinds of gifts just as there are many members of the body. (See Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1, 7-11; 1 Peter 4:10-11; Ephesians 4:11)
Who receives these special charisms or graces?
St. Paul said, "To each is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1 Corinthians 12:7) and "... each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another." (1 Corinthians 7:7).
By the way, these special charisms do not necessary denote holiness of the person who receives them but are given for service of others. Also these special charisms are not all given to all Christians as with the gifts of baptism and confirmation.
St. Paul said, "Concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant." (1 Corinthians 12:1) and "earnestly desire the spiritual gifts." (1 Corinthians 14:1)
Below are some teachings on the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit. As we review these we can also reflect on how are we doing as far as manifesting the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is through prayer, reflection, self examination, and input from others that we can see how well we are manifesting the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
We can also learn more about the spiritual gifts and pray for the grace to both to open to receive any spiritual gifts that the God wants to give us as well as to cooperative with and use any gifts we have received or will receive.
There are also programs that can help us to discover our gifts and talents such as the Called and Gifted Workshops (siena.org.) One way to help us determine what our special gifts are is in our interaction with others and using the gift or talent. For example, if we have the charism of teaching, one sign of this is that when we teach people will learn. If we have the charism or gift of healing, we will see that people are healed when we pray for them.
Just as at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is alive and active today in the Church through its members. With the help of God's grace let us be as open, prayerful, receptive, and cooperative with the Holy Spirit as possible for our own good and the good of others.
Below are some teachings on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit and the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:1-4 "When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim."
Acts: 38-41 "Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.' He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.' Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day."
The Holy Spirit - God's Gift (from the Catechism of the Catholic Church)
733. "God is Love"124 and love is his first gift, containing all others. "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."125
734. Because we are dead or at least wounded through sin, the first effect of the gift of love is the forgiveness of our sins. The communion of the Holy Spirit126 in the Church restores to the baptized the divine likeness lost through sin.
735. He, then, gives us the "pledge" or "first fruits" of our inheritance: the very life of the Holy Trinity, which is to love as "God has loved us."127 This love (the "charity" of 1 Cor 13) is the source of the new life in Christ, made possible because we have received "power" from the Holy Spirit.128
736. By this power of the Spirit, God's children can bear much fruit. He who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear "the fruit of the Spirit: . . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control."129 "We live by the Spirit"; the more we renounce ourselves, the more we "walk by the Spirit."130
Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven, and adopted as children, given confidence to call God "Father" and to share in Christ's grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory.131
124 1 Jn 4:8,1.
125 Rom 5:5.
126 2 Cor 13:14.
127 1 Jn 4: 12; cf. Rom 8:23; 2 Cor 1:21.
128 Acts 1:8; cf. 1 Cor 13.
129 Gal 5:22-23.
130 Gal 5:25; cf. Mt 16:24-26.
131 St. Basil, De Spiritu Sancto, 15,36:PG 32,132.
Fruit of the Holy Spirit (adapted from the Catholic Encyclopedia 1908)
For St. Thomas Aquinas the term "fruits" means only those supernatural works that are done joyfully and with peace of soul. This is the sense in which most authorities apply the term to the list mentioned by St. Paul (Galatians 5:22-23): "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
Also this list of twelve is not to be taken in a strictly limited sense, but, according to the rules of Scriptural language, as capable of being extended to include all acts of a similar character. That is why the St. Thomas says: "Every virtuous act which man performs with pleasure is a fruit."
The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (adapted from wikipedia.org and the Catholic Encyclopedia 1908)
The Catholic Church teaches that we receive the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit at Baptism, and that they are strengthened at Confirmation, so that one can proclaim the truths of the faith. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and descriptions outlined by St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica, the seven gifts are as follows:
Wisdom: The gift of wisdom, by detaching us from the world, makes us relish and love only the things of heaven. We see God at work in our lives and in the world. For the wise, the wonders of nature, historical events, and the ups and downs of life take on deeper meaning. We see God as our Father, appreciate the dignity of others, and find God in all things.
Understanding: The gift of understanding helps us to grasp the truths of religion as far as is necessary. In understanding, we comprehend how we need to live as followers of Christ. A person with understanding is not confused by the conflicting messages in our culture about the right way to live. The gift of understanding perfects a person's speculative reason in the apprehension of truth. It is the gift whereby self-evident principles are known, Aquinas writes.
Counsel (Right Judgment): The gift of counsel springs from supernatural prudence, and enables us to see and choose correctly what will help most to the glory of God and our own salvation. With the gift of counsel/right judgment, we know the difference between right and wrong, and we choose to do what is right. A person with right judgment avoids sin and lives out the values taught by Jesus.
Fortitude (Courage): By the gift of fortitude we receive courage to overcome the obstacles and difficulties that arise in the practice of our religious duties. With the gift of fortitude/courage, we overcome our fear and are willing to take risks as a follower of Jesus Christ. A person with courage is willing to stand up for what is right in the sight of God, even if it means accepting rejection, verbal abuse, or physical harm. The gift of courage allows people the firmness of mind that is required both in doing good and in enduring evil.
Knowledge: The gift of knowledge points out to us the path to follow and the dangers to avoid in order to reach heaven. With the gift of knowledge, we understand the meaning of God. The gift of knowledge is more than an accumulation of facts.
Piety (Reverence): The gift of piety, by inspiring us with a tender and filial confidence in God, makes us joyfully embrace all that pertains to His service. With the gift of piety, we have a deep sense of respect for God and the Church. A person with reverence recognizes our total reliance on God and comes before God with humility, trust, and love. Piety is the gift whereby, at the Holy Spirit's instigation, we pay worship and duty to God as our Father, Aquinas writes.
Fear of the Lord (Wonder and Awe): The gift of fear fills us with a sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread, above all things, to offend Him. With the gift of fear of the Lord we are aware of the glory and majesty of God. A person with wonder and awe knows that God is the perfection of all we desire: perfect knowledge, perfect goodness, perfect power, and perfect love. This gift is described by Aquinas as a fear of separating oneself from God. He describes the gift as a "filial fear," like a child's fear of offending his father, rather than a "servile fear," that is, a fear of punishment. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 1:7) because it puts our mindset in correct location with respect to God: we are the finite, dependent creatures, and He is the infinite, all-powerful Creator.
Comparisons and correspondences
St. Thomas Aquinas says that four of these gifts (wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and counsel) direct the intellect, while the other three gifts (fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord) direct the will toward God.
In some respects, the gifts are similar to the virtues, but a key distinction is that the virtues operate under the impetus of human reason (prompted by grace), whereas the gifts operate under the impetus of the Holy Spirit; the former can be used when one wishes, but the latter operate only when the Holy Spirit wishes. In the case of Fortitude, the gift has, in Latin and English, the same name as a virtue, which it is related to but from which it must be distinguished.
In Summa Theologica II.II, Thomas Aquinas asserts the following correspondences between the seven Capital Virtues and the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
-The gift of wisdom corresponds to the virtue of charity.
-The gifts of understanding and knowledge correspond to the virtue of faith.
-The gift of counsel (right judgment) corresponds to the virtue of prudence.
-The gift of fortitude corresponds to the virtue of courage.
-The gift of fear of the Lord corresponds to the virtue of hope.
-The gift of reverence corresponds to the virtue of justice.
To the virtue of temperance, no Gift is directly assigned; but the gift of fear can be taken as such, since fear drives somebody to restrict himself from forbidden pleasures.
Other Spiritual Gifts including Charisms (adapted from wikipedia.org)
The spiritual gifts (or charismata) are endowments given by the Holy Spirit. These are the supernatural graces which individual Christians need to fulfill the mission of the church. They are described in the New Testament, primarily in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4. 1 Peter 4 also touches on the spiritual gifts. The gifts are related to both seemingly "natural" abilities and seemingly more "miraculous" abilities, but all spiritual gifts are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Spiritual gifts are distinguished from other graces of the Holy Spirit, such as the fruit of the Spirit and the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, in that the charismata are to be used for the benefit of others while the fruit of the Spirit and the Seven Gifts result in personal sanctification.
These gifts are not all received by all the baptized but given as God wills and according to the receptivity of the person.
The New Testament contains several lists of spiritual gifts, most authored by St. Paul. While each list is unique, there is overlap.
Romans 12:6-8: Prophecy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Giving, Leadership, Mercy
1 Corinthians 12:8-10: Word of wisdom, Word of knowledge, Faith, Gifts of healings, Miracles, Prophecy, Distinguishing between spirits, Tongues, Interpretation of tongues
1 Corinthians 12:28: Apostle, Prophet, Teacher, Miracles, Kinds of healings, Helps, Administration, Tongues
Ephesians 4:11: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor-teacher
1 Peter 4:11: Whoever speaks, Whoever renders service
Christians believe that the charismata were foretold by the Prophet Joel (2:28) and promised by Christ (Gospel of Mark 16:17,18). This promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost and elsewhere as the church spread. In order to correct abuses concerning the spiritual gifts at Corinth, Paul devoted much attention to spiritual gifts in his First Epistle to the Corinthians (chapters 12-14).
Christians understand the spiritual gifts to be enablements or capacities that are divinely bestowed upon individuals. Because they are freely given by God, these cannot be earned or merited. Though worked through individuals, these are operations or manifestations of the Holy Spiritnot of the gifted person. They are to be used for the benefit of others, and in a sense they are granted to the church as a whole more than they are given to individuals. There is diversity in their distributionan individual will not possess all of the gifts. The purpose of the spiritual gifts is to edify (build up), exhort (encourage), and comfort the church.
It is generally acknowledged that Paul did not list all of the gifts of the Spirit, and many believe that there are as many gifts as there are needs in the body of Christ. The gifts have at times been organized into distinct categories based on their similarities and differences to other gifts.
Description of the Gifts
Apostle: The title apostle comes from the Greek word apostolos which means "a messenger, one sent forth with orders". It refers to one who has been delegated authority by another, especially for representation in a foreign land. Apostles were the first leaders of the Church; they were commissioned by Jesus to initiate and direct the preaching of the gospel. While the majority of Christians agree that the title of apostle is reserved for those among the first generation of Christians, many Christian denominations continue in one way or another to recognize a continuing apostolic ministry. Many churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, believe in the doctrine of apostolic succession, which holds that properly ordained bishops are the successors to the apostles.
Prophet: In the New Testament, the office of prophet is second only to the office of apostle (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11). The prophet's corresponding gift is prophecy. Prophecy is "reporting something that God spontaneously brings to your mind". Many, particularly Pentecostals and charismatics, distinguish between the "office of prophet" and the "gift of prophecy", believing that a Christian can possess the gift of prophecy without holding the prophetic office.
Evangelist: An evangelist is one who devotes himself to preaching the gospel. In the New Testament, evangelists preached from city to city, church to church.
Pastor: This term derives from a Greek word for "shepherd". Pastors are gifted to lead, guide, and set an example for other Christians. The grammatical structure of Ephesians 4:11 leads many to conclude that teacher and pastor should be considered one term (pastor-teacher). Even so, the two terms are not interchangeable; while all pastors are teachers, not all teachers are pastors.
Teacher: Someone who devotes his or her life to preaching and teaching the Christian faith. When teaching is provided for the Church by God, two gifts are actually givento the Church is given a teacher and along with the teacher comes a divine capacity to teach.
Service: The word translated as "ministry" is diakonia, which can also be translated "service". Since there are many types of ministries and service to the Church, this then describes a broad array of gifts rather than a single gift.
Exhortation: The ability to motivate Christians "to patient endurance, brotherly love, and good works".
Giving: Those with this gift share their own possessions with others with extraordinary generosity. While all Christians should be givers, those possessing this gift will go beyond this normal giving.
Leading: This gift speaks to the various leadership roles found in the Church. While many think of roles such as administration, management of funds, strategy planning, etc. as functions outside of the supernatural realm, in reality individuals in these positions are just as in need of supernatural empowerment as are ministers of the gospel. Some writers consider the gifts of governments and leading to be the same gift, but others consider them closely related yet different.
Mercy: Possibly identical to the gift of helps, the mercy-shower possesses a ministry of visitation, prayer, and compassion to the poor and sick.
Word of wisdom: An utterance or message of wisdom supernaturally granted to an individual. For Paul, wisdom refers to "the knowledge of the great Christian mysteries: the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ, and the indwelling in the believer of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2; Ephesians 1:17)".
Word of knowledge: The knowledge referred to is often said to relate to understanding Christian doctrine or scriptural truth. It is sometimes said to be connected with the ministry of teachers.
Faith: This refers to that strong or special faith "which removes mountains, casts out devils (Matthew 17:19,20), and faces the most cruel martyrdom without flinching". It is distinguished from the "saving" and "normal" Christian faith.
Gifts of healing: The ability to supernaturally minister healing to others. The plural indicates the variety of sickness healed and the many forms the gift takes.
Working of miracles: The performance of deeds beyond ordinary human ability by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Discerning of spirits: The capacity to discern, distinguish, or to discriminate the source of a spiritual manifestationwhether it emanates from a good or evil spirit. It seemed to have been particularly associated with prophecy as it would be necessary to know whether a prophetic utterance was truly inspired by God.
Tongues: The supernatural ability of speaking an unlearned language. Paul seems to have distinguished between the public use of the gift (which must always be interpreted) and the private use which was for the spiritual strengthening of oneself. Currently among Christians there is a dispute as to whether tongues were/are always xenoglossy (speaking an unlearned human language) or whether it also included/includes glossolalia (speaking an unlearned and allegedly non-human language of heavenly or angelic origin).
Interpretation of tongues: This gift always follows the public exercise of the gift of tongues. In 1 Corinthians 14, the Apostle Paul required that all speech in Christian worship should be intelligible. This required that speech given in an unknown tongue be interpreted in the common language of the gathered Christians.
Helps: This gift has to do with service to the sick and the poor. Possessor of this gift has a "spiritual burden and a God-given love for the needy and afflicted".
Administration: Also called the gift of governing, the Greek word translated "governments" is kubernesis, the verb form of which means "to steer" or "to be a helmsman". This gift then refers to the God-given capacity to lead or guide the Church through storms and difficult seas.
Other spiritual gifts
While not specifically defined as spiritual gifts in the Bible, other abilities and capacities have been considered as spiritual gifts by some Christians. Some are found in the New Testament such as:
Celibacy (I Corinthians 7:7)
Hospitality (1 Peter 4:9-10)
Intercession (Rom. 8:26:27)
Marriage (I Corinthians 7:7)
Effective Witnessing (Acts 1:8, 5:32, 26:22, 1 John 5:6)
Others are found in the Old Testament such as:
Craftsmanship (such as the special abilities given to artisans who constructed the Tabernacle in Exodus 35:30-33)
Interpretation of dreams (e.g. Joseph and Daniel)
Spiritual music, poetry, and prose
Are we open to the Holy Spirit and his gifts in our lives?
Here are some reasons (from an article at crmweb.org) as to why the world at large does not receive the Holy Spirit, but we can also examine ourselves to see if any of these reasons could be keeping us from being more filled with the Holy Spirit as well:
not open to receive Him
preoccupied with worldly, material things
have unrepented sin in their lives
not looking for Him
cannot recognize Him (they lack a spiritual sensitivity).
are ignorant of the Spirit's role and the charisms (gifts of the Spirit)
Blessed Pope John Paul II, Feast of Pentecost 2004: "Open yourselves meekly to the gifts of the Holy Spirit! Accept with gratitude and obedience the gifts that the Spirit does not cease to give! Do not forget that each charism is given for the common good, in other words for the benefit of the entire Church!"
Luke 11:9-13: And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?