Fr. Scott A. Haynes
Brethren: You know that when you were Gentiles, you went to dumb idols according as you were led. Wherefore I give you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God, says Anathema to Jesus. And no one can say Jesus is Lord, except in the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of workings, but the same God, Who works all things in all. Now the manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for profit. To one through the Spirit is given the utterance of wisdom; and to another the utterance of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; to another faith, in the same Spirit; to another the gift of healing, in the one Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another the distinguishing of spirits; to another various kinds of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But all these things are the work of one and the same Spirit, Who allots to everyone according as He will.
1 Corinthians 12:2-11
In these times we must stand fast and not be discouraged by the sad state of things. When it seems that the state of affairs could not get worse, we are surprised by the next turn of events. As we await Christ's glorious return on the Last Day, we know that fear is not for us, since we are merely passing through on our way to heaven.
Jesus teaches us:
"When these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand" (Lk.21:28).
St. Augustine comments upon this theme in his monumental work City of God, writing:
"[The Church], like a pilgrim in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God."
The "consolations of God" include the gifts, and fruits, and the abundant blessings of the Holy Ghost. Some of these gifts are given for our personal strengthening and sanctification (gratiae gratis datae). These are the Seven Gifts of Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety, and Fear of the Lord, as well as the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Then there are gifts, gratiae gratum facientes, extraordinary gifts that are given to individuals not for their own personal use, but for the building up of the whole community of the Church. These are called charismata, or charisms, or the charismatic gifts. These are the gifts spoken of by St. Paul in his First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:2-11). What are they? They include the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, special faith, the grace of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, the discerning of spirits, diverse kinds of tongues, interpretation of speeches, besides the gifts of apostles, prophets, doctors, helps, and governments (1 Corinthians 12:12). This is not an exhaustive list, because we would have to include dreams, visions, apparitions, bi-location, and more.
In the matter of healing, for instance, we may not always be able to depend upon the usual medical services, but we will always be able to pray for healing. Some individuals are given the grace of healing by God. The saints in particular often had that gift. St. Augustine is not noted as a healer or miracle worker. His special gift was a brilliant intellect, which he used for the good of the Church. At first St Augustine thought that some of the charismatic gifts mentioned in the Epistle today, like miracles and healing, were for the good of the Church at its beginning but were no longer necessary for the Church in his time. But he would come to change his mind on this. Once, when he was suffering from a severe toothache, one of his fellow monks suggested that he pray for a cure. He did so reluctantly, and was healed, to his genuine surprise.
At a certain time, the relics of St. Stephen were brought to St. Augustine’s cathedral in Hippo, and on two successive nights, while the people were at prayer in the presence of the relics, two people, a brother and sister, were marvelously healed of serious illnesses. The holy Bishop, St. Augustine, changed his mind about the charismatic gifts, realizing that they were available to the Church in every age.
Unfortunately, the charismatic gifts are often given a bad name by bogus faith healers and miracle workers who line people up in rows to be "slain in the Spirit." Even St. Paul had to correct the Corinthians for the abuse of the charismatic gifts that were common in the early Church. One must beware of the sin of presumption, expecting God to work signs and wonders on our own terms and conditions. Other abuses are done in the "name of the spirit," as people make rash decisions, lacking proper discernment, or failing to adhere to the Ten Commandments or moral teaching of Christ. Such "inspiration" must be attributed to the "spirit of the times" or the "spirit of the world" rather than to the Holy Spirit.
We need the gifts of the Holy Ghost now more than ever; they belong to the Church. Understand that the gifts of the Holy Ghost are like the sails on your boat. When there is no wind, you have to pull hard on the oars to get where you are going. You can get very tired and lose courage. But when the breath of the Holy Ghost blows on your sails, you move along with little effort.
St. Paul advises:
"The Spirit also helps our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself pleads for us with unutterable groanings. And he who searches the hearts knows what the Spirit desires, that he pleads for the saints according to God" (Rom.8:26,27).