By Father John Leising
Associate and Chaplain, Fredonia Place of Williamsville
For the last several days, we have reflected on the Lord’s disciples, gathered in the Upper Room, waiting for the coming of the Spirit with his sevenfold gifts. We, too, have gathered in our “Upper Rooms” or Chapels, with the same needs as the disciples.
We all like to receive gifts. That’s one of the reasons why Christmas is so special.
Sometimes our birthday celebrations involve gift-giving. But it’s nowhere near Christmas, and birthday celebrations may not be any time soon. What we can look forward to is the coming of the Spirit and the gifts that Spirit brings, usually Seven Gifts. It’s a good time to think about them, and to notice how they build upon each other.
Gift of Knowledge is simply the ability to “know some stuff,” as kids might say. The Spirit uses a lot of help to give this gift – parents, and teaches. The Gift of Understanding gives us the ability to make sense of all the facts we know; for example, learning the names and deeds of all the presidents is knowledge and understanding helps us make sense of all those facts, by making comparisons or noticing trends. But that’s not enough. We need the Gift of Wisdom to take us deeper. This is the gift that helps us find out what is true — sorting out the knowledge and understanding to make a difference in our lives. The Spirit gives the gift of wisdom slowly; it comes throughout our lives.
This brings us to a gift which can be misunderstood — the Gift of Fear of the Lord. It has nothing to do with trembling before a punishing God. It might be better to call it the Gift of Wonder and Awe — wonder and awe in the presence of God. It helps us react to what we know and understand. Think of it as the moment when we step back and say “Wow!” An example: we may study astronomy and learn about the stars. We may come to understand a little about the expanding universe. And we almost become dizzy with amazement at God’s creative power. Or we study how a child develops in its mother’s womb (think of parents seeing the first sonogram of their child). We come to understand a little about the development of human life and we are left speechless by God’s wonderful creativity. We also can misunderstand the Gift of Piety. It’s easy to think of folded hands and downcast eyes, the things people think of when they say, “How pious she is!” It might better be called the Gift of Reverence. It’s where we find ourselves when we have been filled with wonder and awe — we find ourselves giving prayerful thanks. God exists, God has created and continues to create the universe, God has given us life. How can we react? With all the prayerful, thankful reverence we can muster.
It is not enough to learn and be amazed and give thanks. There’s something we should be doing. The Gift of Counsel helps us decide what should happen next. Example: we are amazed and thankful for all that God has created. What can we do now, and this time in our lives here and now to protect and preserve these gifts? The Gift of Counsel leads us to the answer.
All that’s left is to take the action the Gift of Counsel leads us to. That’s where the Gift of Fortitude (or courage) comes in. This is the gift that gets us out of bed, that propels us into getting the right thing done. The Spirit gives this gift according to our abilities and our energies. It is wrapped differently than when we received it 25 years ago. Now the Spirit kindly considers our age and current condition. The Gift of Fortitude helps us do what we can here and now.
What wonderful gifts, first given when we were baptized; reinforced when we were confirmed. Renewed and celebrated at this Pentecost, 2021!