Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption by Deacon Jerry Franzen
Isaiah 62:1-5 I Corinthians 12:4-11 John:1-12
Praised be Jesus Christ Good Morning!
Abraham Lincoln once apologized to an acquaintance.
He said, “I am sorry that I wrote such a long letter to you.
I didn’t have time to write a short one.”
I have been working on giving shorter homilies.
So, if you find this homily is too long, I apologize;
I didn’t have time to write a shorter one.
Usually we cite the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which we receive at Baptism
as wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude,
piety and fear of the Lord.
These are found in chapter 11 of the book of the prophet Isaiah.
They are for our own internal spirituality, our relationship to God,
for us to use for our own salvation.
In the second reading from the 12th chapter of St. Paul’s first letter
to the Corinthians we just heard another list of spiritual gifts,
gifts again distributed by the Holy Spirit.
They are: the expression of wisdom, the expression of knowledge,
faith, healing, mighty deeds, prophecy, discernment of spirits,
a variety of tongues and interpretation of tongues.
One might replace the word “tongues” with “forms of prayer.”
Elsewhere, St. Paul refers to praying in tongues.
These gifts certainly will be supported by those received at Baptism;
but there is a distinction.
This second list states these gifts are to be used for the benefit of all.
These are the gifts that we are to use as our part of the Body of Christ,
which St. Paul lays out very clearly in very next part of
this same chapter in this letter to the Corinthians.
You will hear that part of this chapter next week.
We may not receive all of these gifts to the same degree;
Paul told the Corinthians that the gifts are distributed individually.
It is very clear from the later part of this chapter,
that the distribution of these gifts by the Holy Spirit is determined
by what is needed within the Body of Christ.
Notice in this list we have the expression of wisdom and
the expression of knowledge, not just wisdom and knowledge.
These are the gifts by which we express our wisdom
and express knowledge for all within the Body of Christ.
Each of these gifts is to be used to build up the Body of Christ.
How would this description of gifts distributed through out
the Corinthian community compare
to the perception of this list by Catholics of today?
All too many Catholics seem to feel that
they have nothing to offer the Christian community.
They still believe that our part in 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 of God’s grace and salvation.
This view can spell the death of true Christian spirituality,
for it is destructive of the Christian community.
The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each for the common good.
I have touched on 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.
The first point: God gives His gifts
to EACH Christian, not just to a select few like the saints,
the pope, the bishops, and the local clergy,
but to each of His adopted daughters and sons.
They equip us to deal with our own life experiences
in the community of 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 those very gifts
in a unique way to carry out a specific vocation.
The Christian doctor can become 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 should experience a greater delight in the things of God,
in the people of God and in God himself.
Point number 1 – we have each received spiritual gifts from God.
The second point is: This “new you” stems from the Holy Spirit.
We need periodic reminders of that,
because there are two common extreme 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.
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 other 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 am not a theologian; I don’t even like myself.
Don’t tell me that God has given me special gifts.
These gifts are not gifts from Ebay, Target or Macy’s;
they are gifts of the Holy Spirit,
the Spirit that Jesus said that the Father would send.
It might help if you have a great personality and are a “ten,”
in some people’s eyes,
but the Spirit works through you AS YOU ARE.
You will find that you are more proficient in one or more gifts.
Bishop Sam Jacobs says that he didn’t know he had the gift of tongues until he tried to develop that gift.
The Spirit illumines your mind to know the way you should go,
AND fortifies your will to go that way
despite obstacles on the outside and weaknesses from within.
Second point – your gifts are designed for you by the Holy Spirit.
And thirdly, these gifts are given to you for others.
Yes, gifts from God should do something for YOU personally,
as faith, hope and love increase our intimacy with Christ,
but these 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 others.
We cannot be closet Christians; no Christian is an island.
Wherever you have been called: home, campus, workplace, parish
wherever that is, others are there.
The Holy Spirit makes you what you are
to help your community to become what it ought to be.
That can be no truer than in the case of abortion and other life issues.
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?
The March for Life is over, but the scourge of abortion is not.
How can we each do our part?
Through the Holy Spirit we can share the knowledge and wisdom
that can help others to understand that abortion is immoral.
Like the prophets, we can spread God’s word about the sanctity of life.
We can help others discern the evil spirits that fortify the false
but convenient view that abortion is a right.
We can pray in a variety of forms for an end to abortion.
We can volunteer to help in the healing of those victimized by abortion.
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 volunteering in agencies
that assist mothers of unplanned pregnancies
to care for their new-born children.
We must do all of this in the faith that God will fashion an end
to this horrible situation that plagues our nation.
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.
You can use these gifts to make another’s life more endurable,
And to make your life and that of another more Christian.
You may even surprise yourself and others with that joy.