The gift of the Spirit

Ah summer! What a wonderful time of year, everything is in bloom, days are longer, and the sun seems to reach into even the darkest corners of our lives. We shed the layers of winter clothes, open windows wide to let in the summer breezes, and turn our faces upwards to soak in the sun’s warming rays. There is a certain joy and happiness that permeates our days. 

We are filled with a renewed sense of hope, no longer do we sit in darkness, no longer do we hide behind our closed doors and windows, huddled in blankets for warmth, we step out into the warmth and light of the sun. 

When I think of how we react to the changing seasons, and how after what seems like an endless winter, we welcome the summer, I am reminded of the Apostles. June is a month of many farewells and new beginnings; we celebrate graduations, weddings and a multitude of life changing events. We also this year will be celebrating Pentecost Sunday on June 8. Like so many of us, who patiently or impatiently waited for the first hints of spring and summer, the Apostles, too, waited for that first glimmer of hope. 

They stayed huddled away, locked up in their upper room waiting and wondering if they would ever be able to see the “Son” again. In their darkened room, they longed for light, for guidance, for the strength to face tomorrow, for the ability to live without fear and to know that everything would be OK. After what must have seemed like an eternity to them, they were sent God’s Spirit, and with renewed conviction they threw open the doors and once again walked into the light. Their joy, their commitment evident to all those who witnessed their transformation and how now, filled with the Holy Spirit, reached out and spoke to all present in their native tongue. 

The Holy Spirit was not only sent to those faithful men and women so many years ago, the Spirit is sent to each and every one of us. Pentecost reminds us that Jesus remains among us, and is a part of our very being, filling us with His Spirit, giving us what we need when we need it. In the past weeks, many parishes have celebrated Confirmations, and with each of these, we are reminded of the gifts that were bestowed on each of us. For many of the ethnic parishes in our diocese, there is also the feast of the Holy Ghost, which dedicates each of seven Sundays to the specific gifts of the Spirit, serving as visible reminders to the faithful of the gifts. 

Each gift is given to us freely and generously; what we do with these gifts is totally up to us. The gifts are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. We each posses the ability to grasp and fully comprehend these gifts and to integrate them into our lives; we are the soil, the seeds have been planted, the Spirit has watered them, we now need to step into the “Son” to allow them to bloom and bear fruit. 

OK, great, so I have been given these gifts, but what do they all mean? Wisdom — the greatest gift of the Spirit allows us to truly value those things we believe through our faith. Understanding — different than wisdom, allows us to fully grasp our beliefs, the very essence of our faith. Counsel — it was through this gift that the Apostles were able to witness to their faith, and how many of us stand firm in our beliefs. Fortitude — is the courage to stand firm and follow through with conviction in our beliefs, even in the face of trial and adversity. Knowledge — this gift allows us to determine God’s purpose for our lives and live them accordingly. Piety — gives us the desire to worship God and serve Him out of love. And lastly, fear of the Lord — stems from our desire to avoid offending God, and through this gift we are given the grace to do just that; and like piety, the fear of the Lord arises out of love.

Each gift builds upon the other, and in time they become the very essence of our being. People around us begin to see these gifts and virtues in the very way we live our lives. They begin to recognize the Face of Jesus reflected in our own, and sense His Spirit working in our lives. We are given these gifts not as burdens to be borne, but rather as light and guidance for our lives. With the graces we receive, the Spirit blooms outwardly lighting the way for others through us, allowing others to fully experience the life of God dwelling within us; the life of God that dwells in each and every one of us. Let us each welcome the Holy Spirit, as the Apostles did at Pentecost, inviting Him “to renew the face of the earth,” and us as well.

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva lives in Fall River and is a parishioner of St. Michael’s Parish, and she is the Events Coordinator and Bereavement Ministry for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. She is married with three children and two grandchildren.

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