Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption by Deacon Jerry Franzen
Isaiah 62:1-5 I Corinthians 12:4-11 John:1-12
In the second reading we heard a list of spiritual gifts:
wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, mighty deeds, prophecy,
discernment of spirits, a variety of tongues,
interpretation of tongues.
Wisdom and knowledge – I was once told the difference:
Knowledge is knowing that the tomato is a fruit;
Wisdom is not including tomatoes in a fruit salad.
Faith might be described frog – F R O G - fully reliant on God.
The gift of healing could be physical or spiritual.
One who is God’s instrument in a miracle
might have the gift of mighty deeds.
Prophecy is the gift of being able to be God’s teaching voice
to the community,
A variety of tongues can refer to being able to pray in a variety of ways.
And interpreting tongues is being able to translate the variety of prayers
for the community.
It seems that Paul recognized that among the Corinthians
the manifestations of these gifts of the Holy Spirit could lead
to some problems of envy, pride, arrogance and exclusiveness,
to some thinking themselves better than others,
because of the gifts they expressed .
He wanted to impress upon the Corinthians
that each manifestation was of the same Spirit and was not
for the promotion of the one who ministers the gift,
but for the good of all.
This is clear from the fact that this section, Chapter 12 verses 4 to 12,
is just before St. Paul’s analogy of the Body of Christ
at the end of this chapter.
How would this description of gifts distributed through out
the community compare to the perception of Catholics of today?
All too many Catholics seem to feel that
they have nothing to offer the Christian community.
They still believe that the work of redemption
has been farmed out to a small group of the ordained.
They see themselves, not as mediators of God’s grace and salvation,
but only as passive recipients.
This view spells the death of true Christian spirituality,
and it is destructive of the Christian community.
The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each for the common good.
One simple sentence, three tremendous truths – three points:
1) God’s gifts are given to each of us.
2) These gifts stem from the Holy Spirit.
3) They are given for the good of all.
One point St. Paul was making is that God gives His gifts
to each Christian, not just to a select few like the saints,
the bishops, Mother Theresa or the local clergy.
At baptism we each receive the personal gifts
to believe, to hope and to love.
We need these as a basis for living out the Christian life
to which we are called by baptism.
Two weeks age we celebrated Jesus revealing himself to the world.
Last week we celebrated Jesus’ baptism to initiate his ministry;
and today we look to how we are equipped by the Holy Spirit to deal with our own life experiences as followers of Christ.
Father or mother, child or parent, student or teacher,
lawyer or doctor, business person or government worker,
white collar or blue, robust or infirm,
whoever you are, you are equipped with the gifts
in a unique way to carry out a specific vocation,
and it is a vocation not merely in the secular world,
but a vocation within the Christian community.
The Christian doctor is not
just a Christian in a secular healing occupation.
He or she, as a Christian doctor,
becomes a conduit for the healing of Christ,
empowered with gifts that make for a healing beyond the physical.
The Christian lawyer rises above the level
of a clever counselor seeking justice
to a person whose love for the law is invigorated by the law of love.
The Christian student no longer just seeks knowledge and understanding,
but sees in them the manifestation of God himself.
YOU, as recipients of these gifts from God, can expect a deeper insight
into the human mysteries that mystify you.
YOU will experience a greater delight in the things of God,
the people of God and in God himself.
Point number 1 – we have each received spiritual gifts.
The second point is: This “new you” stems from the Holy Spirit.
We need periodic reminders of that,
because there are two common errors at large in the world,
The first extreme is the incurable optimist that is convinced
that he can pull himself up to salvation by his bootstraps.
No concern for original sin, no need to be reborn.
By his free will, he can lead himself to salvation;
maybe an occasional nudge from God might be needed. Hogwash!
We reach God, not by our own efforts, but by God’s gracious mercy.
And we can work out our own specific Christian calling
only if the Spirit is living and active within us.
To do freely what we ought to do, our part in God’s plan,
we need the freedom of the gifts which flow from the Spirit.
Without them we are lost.
The second type of extreme is one of pessimism:
Oh, I’m homely with acne, I’m too shy or insecure; I stutter.
I can’t sing or dance; I’m not particularly smart;
I’m not experienced in the ways of the world;
I can’t stand the sight of blood and I don’t even like myself.
Don’t tell me that God has given me special gifts. Baloney!
These gifts are not gifts from Ebay, Target or Macy’s;
they are gifts of the Holy Spirit.
It might help if you have a great personality and are a “ten,”
but the Spirit works through you AS YOU ARE.
He illumines your mind to know the way you should go,
AND fortifies your will to go that way
despite obstacles from without and weaknesses from within.
With the Spirit, when you are weak, you are strong;
for it is He who works in you.
Fr. Walter Burghardt put it this way:
“You may need therapy or a skin cream to make you utterly whole;
but whoever you are,
whatever your infirmities and imperfections,
it is the Spirit alone who can make you a means of redemption,
a channel of grace, an instrument of God’s peace.
It is He who changes your water into wine.”
Second point – your gifts are God-given.
And thirdly these gifts are given to you for others,
for the common good.
Yes, a gift from God should do something for YOU personally,
as faith, hope and love increase our intimacy with Christ,
but the gifts mentioned by St. Paul are those given to you for others.
With these gifts we are to look beyond ourselves to our lives with others,
to the community, to our call to minister, to serve.
We cannot be closet Christians; no Christian is an island.
Wherever you have been called: home or campus,
courtroom or legislature, office or lab,
hospital ward or Afghan hill country,
wherever that is, others are there.
The Spirit makes you what you are
to help the community become what it ought to be.
That can be no more true
than in the case of abortion and other life issues.
The Spirit makes you what you are
to help the community become what it ought to be.
We may live in a small community that abhors abortion.
That community may be our family,
your parish or even our part of the state of Kentucky,
but there is a larger community, our country,
that says abortion is legal.
How can each of us make use of the gifts we have been given
to change the character of our country to what it should be?
This year is the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision
to legalize abortion.
Abortion, in its several forms, is the taking of a human life,
and over these 40 years of the legalized killing of children
more than 50,000,000 abortions
have been performed in the U.S. alone.
This year about 1000 students, teachers, chaperons and adults
from this diocese will be travelling to Washington, DC
to join in the March for Life,
the march to protest that decision to legalize abortion,
the march to attempt to change our country,
to make our country what it should be.
For some of us that is part of our vocation, what we do with our gifts.
I am asking that each of you recognize that you are something special,
because you have special gifts of the Spirit
that can speak to others’ needs, especially the needs of the unborn.
Each of you can speak out in your own way using your gifts.
That could be in assisting adoption agencies
and encouraging mothers of unplanned pregnancies to consider adoption.
That could also be in helping agencies
that assist mothers of unplanned pregnancies
to care for their new-born children.
And, of course we can all pray always, but especially on January 25,
the day designated by Bishop Foys
as a day of Prayer and Penance for Life.
Take joy in the gifts implanted in you by the Holy Spirit, AND
joy in the fact that your gifts can touch others, even the unborn,
to make another life more endurable,
to make your life and that of another more Christian,
and to surprise yourself and others with that joy.
Parts Based on “To Each is Given” from “Sir We Would Like to See Jesus” Walter J. Burghardt, S.J. Paulist Press New York 1982 pp 88-92