It seems most appropriate to begin our exploration of gifts and charisms by examining the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The traditional list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit comes from the book of the prophet Isaiah. What are the gifts listed in this traditional list? “The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.” To this list the Church also adds piety.
We start with the gifts of the Holy Spirit for a very important and significant reason. It is not simply that God calls us, but rather that he calls us and offers to us the help we need to answer that call. We are always in God’s holy presence, and God is constantly pouring out grace to us that we may be able to respond to this call and to live as Jesus wishes us to live. And while the gift in the book of the prophet Isaiah refers to the gifts that will be upon the Messiah of God, we, as Christians know Jesus to be this Messiah of God. And it is because of his self-gift to us in his life, death, and resurrection, these gifts are now freely poured out on us as well.
As you consider the list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which gifts can you name and identify in your own life? What gifts has God given you to be a better disciple of Jesus and a successful witness to your faith? For it is quite important that in all we do we are able to see those ways God gives us to grow deeper in our faith. Trying to identify these gifts helps us to use them.
Identifying gifts and the need to know how to use them is why wisdom is the preeminent gift. Consider King Solomon in the Old Testament. When King Solomon rises to the throne, God comes to him in a dream and tells Solomon to ask for whatever he wants. Such a message from God could tempt him to ask for many things. Riches, wealth, fame, freedom from those enemies who are seeking to kill him. But Solomon realizes to be a good king means very much to know what to do. And to know what to do Solomon needs wisdom.
What is wisdom? The definition I have always liked is that wisdom is the ability to see as God sees. I like this because it is important that wisdom not be reduced to simply collecting a lot of facts. For wisdom is about knowledge, but more importantly it is about being able to use that knowledge well. Young people have a lot of knowledge (often much more than we do), but they do not always possess the wisdom to know what to do with all that knowledge.
The understanding of wisdom, the beginning is to fear the Lord. Now this is not fear in the sense of being afraid or terrified, but rather that deep reverential awe that God is God, and we are not. We cannot be wise if we do not understand that God knows better than we do. If we approach God without a sense that God is so far beyond me in every way (except sin, of course) then it is simply not possible to grow in our faith. But when we acknowledge the grandeur and glory of God, it is then that God moves our hearts ever closer to him.
Perhaps it would be good to spend some time today just thinking about the grandeur of God. Maybe you can seek to place yourself in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and just focus on how much it is that God loves you. So many of the encounters of conversion in the gospels come when people have the faith that simply touching, hearing, and placing oneself into God’s presence is enough. Try this today. I am confident God will not disappoint.