Using the Charisms Given by the Holy Spirit
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Jesus Christ,
Before his ascension Jesus asked his disciples “to proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mark 16: 15). Then he instructed them saying, “I am sending upon you what my Father promised; stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). This promise of Jesus was fulfilled on Pentecost day when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, in the form of tongues of fire, and filled them with his graces.
The Holy Spirit comes upon each one of us on the day of our baptism. And as he filled the disciples with his graces on Pentecost day, the Holy Spirit fills each one of us with his graces on the day of our baptism. These graces are further deepened and strengthened on the day of our confirmation.
The tradition of the Church teaches us that through the Sacraments of initiation, that is through baptism and confirmation, we receive three sets of graces from the Holy Spirit. They are called as the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Fruits of the Holy Spirit and the Charisms of the Holy Spirit.
There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. These are based on the gifts mentioned in Isaiah, chapter 11, verses two and three (CCC 1831). These are given to us so that we may live a morally upright life and fulfil the God-given purpose of our life.
When we live according to these gifts, the Holy Spirit produces in us and enables us to manifest many good qualities. These are called the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. There are twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit. They are charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity” (CCC 1832). These are based on the Letter of St Paul to the Galatians, chapter 5, verses two-two and twenty-three, as well as other writings of St Paul.
There is a third set of graces given to us by the Holy Spirit called the charisms of the Holy Spirit. The second reading of today, taken from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians, speaks to us about this third set of graces, namely charisms.
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit are given to us for personal growth and holiness. They are given primarily for one’s own well-being. The charisms of the Holy Spirit are given to us for building up the body of Christ and for building up the Kingdom of God. The charisms are other-centred.
In the second reading of today St Paul mentions nine charisms. They are: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues. However, these are not the only charisms. St Paul himself gives other lists of charisms where he mentions charisms like leadership and assistance (1 Cor 12: 28-31). Since charisms are given for building up the body of Christ, we cannot fix the number of charisms. The Holy Spirit gives charisms according to the needs of the time and place.
The teaching of the New Testament is that the Holy Spirit has given every believer, that is every Christian, one or more charisms for building up the body of Christ (CCC 951). In First Corinthians, chapter twelve, verse seven St Paul says, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” In the first letter of Peter, chapter four, verse ten we are told, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” So, charisms are given not only to saints. They are given to each one of us.
As the Holy Spirit has given each of us one or more charisms, there is no one present here who does not have a charism. Some of us have the charism of healing, others the charism of prophecy, others the charism of wisdom, others the charism of leadership or some other charism. Each Christian community, each parish will become really vibrant only when each Christian recognizes the charisms that he or she has been blessed with and uses them for the good of the community.
The using of charisms is not optional. It is the right and duty of every Christian to use charisms. The Second Vatican Council says, “from the acceptance of these charisms, including those which are more elementary, there arises for each believer the right and duty to use them in the Church and in the world for the good of men and the building up of the Church, in the freedom of the Holy Spirit” (LG 12). And it is the duty of pastors to assist the faithful to discern their charisms. St John Chrysostom, a fourth-century church father said: “The most basic task of a church leader is to discern the spiritual gifts of all those under his authority, and to encourage those gifts to be used to the full benefit of all. Only a person who can discern the gifts of others and can humbly rejoice at the flourishing of those gifts is fit to lead the Church” (Six Books on the Priesthood, p. 44). If we do not use the charisms given to us we will be held accountable like the lazy servant in the parable of the ten talents who was ultimately punished for not using the money that was given to him (Mt 25:14-30).
We said that it is through the sacraments of initiation that the Holy Spirit gives us the gifts and charisms. Often, they are given to us only as seeds. It is our duty to cultivate these seeds and make them grow in us. As St Paul tells Timothy, we need to “fan into flame” the gifts of God that are within us (2 Tim 1:6). In order to cultivate and make these seeds grow we need to do the following:
First: Repent and live a good life (Acts 2:38).
Second: Thirst for the Holy Spirit (Jn 7:37-39).
Third: Long for charisms. In First Corinthians, chapter twelve, verse 31 St Paul says, “You must earnestly desire the most helpful gifts”
Fourth: Ask the heavenly Father to send the Holy Spirit upon you (Lk 11:31).
Fifth: With the faith that you have, begin to use the charisms which you feel that God has blessed you with (Rom 12:6).
Let us conclude with a short prayer: Heavenly Father, you have sent the Holy Spirit upon us and filled us with his gifts, fruits and charisms. Enable us to discern the charisms that have been given to us, and use them for building up the body of Christ. We ask this, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.