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4. TRANSFORMATIVE GIFTS

Early in the history of the Church, it was observed that those who received the Spirit began to evidence many wonderful changes in their lives. In reflecting on their experience, they turned to their own Scriptures and found resonance in a passage from the writings of the prophet Isaiah:

A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse,
A scion thrusts from his roots;
On him the spirit of Yahweh rests,
A spirit of wisdom and insight,
A spirit of counsel and power,
A spirit of knowledge and fear of Yahweh.

- Is. 11: 1-2

Eventually, these came to be known as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The passage alludes to the Messiah, who manifested these gifts fully; the same Spirit was shared with the followers of the Messiah, who also began to evidence these gifts. What the transformative gifts describe is what we might call the �character of Christ.� The ongoing development of these gifts is a sure sign that the Spirit is transforming our human nature into a likeness of Christ�s.

The transformative gifts of the Spirit are different from the charismatic or spiritual gifts; we will talk about the latter in our next conference. The transformative gifts are given to individuals for the sanctification of the individual while the charismatic gifts are given primarily for the good of the community. It is true that the transformative gifts also benefit the community, but that is not their primary purpose. What they indicate is growth unto becoming a likeness of Christ.

Let�s spend a little time going through these gifts, reflecting on their meaning and the evidence of them we find in Scripture and in our own lives.

A. Wisdom. There is a wisdom that comes from human experience, but that is not the same thing as the Gift of Wisdom, which enables one to share in God�s own perspective concerning a situation. Wisdom makes use of faith, human experience and reason and points the way to practical exercises of faith. Because of Holy Wisdom, one�s conscience is moved to act correctly, and in accordance with God�s will.

B. Understanding. This gift makes possible the comprehension of divine truth. Again, it works in concert with human understanding, but to help us grasp something of the mysteries of revelation in a manner that supports and informs one�s faith.

C. Counsel is specific guidance from the Spirit, enabling us to discern good from evil and, in certain circumstances, the better course of action.

D. Fortitude is a gift of courage, providing strength and energy to remain faithful and resolute during times of adversity.

E. Knowledge refers, here, to a direct grasp of God�a kind of experiential �knowing� the ways of the divine. Because we have knowledge of God, we are better able to discern the ways of God and to act accordingly.

F. Piety moves one to a deep love and devotion for God. It is this gift that makes it possible to keep the first commandment�that we love God above all else.

G. Fear of the Lord pertains to the dread of sin instilled by the Spirit; it is also a kind of holy reverence, taking expression in a desire to avoid offending God and to worship Him in religious ways.

Every Christian is blessed with seeds of all of these gifts, but their growth depends on a number of factors�most especially the response of the individual. The gift of fortitude, for example, grows stronger in us if we act on its promptings during times when the Spirit moves us to stand up for Christ, or perhaps simply for goodness. If we squelch the gift, we will be less sensitive to it the next time the prompting comes along. Through reading, prayer and study, the Spirit is better able to grow the gifts of wisdom, knowledge and understanding in us. This is not to diminish the gratuitous nature of the gifts, however. Some people who don�t read, pray and study very much show more evidence of wisdom, knowledge and understanding than people who are more active in these disciplines. In fact, it seems that the more one tries to develop spiritual gifts through human effort, the less likely they are to develop. There is a paradox here, for sure: God wants us to be transformed by the Spirit, but the Spirit builds on human knowledge and experience to grow the gifts in us. Even finding the right balance between receptivity and effort seems a work of the Spirit�probably a manifestation of wisdom and counsel.

There is another mystery, here, and it is that even among the most willing and fervent souls, we do not find equal manifestation of the gifts. The Spirit grows them differently in depth and proportion in each of us. Knowing this can help one to be less inclined to compare him/herself with another, who seems to be more wise, or more pious. God has made each of us different and unique; who we are is good, and the way the gifts develop in us is what is good for us. As long as we are open to the Spirit and are doing what we feel moved to do by the Spirit to grow in Her gifts, that is all that can be expected. Even this certainty isn�t always possible, of course, and so we must be assured that our offering of self to God is acceptable, and that if God wants more of us, it will be made known.

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit give us a good way to recognize Christian character. They describe the kind of intelligence and willingness that the Spirit produces in people who are being transformed in Christ. Our growth in these gifts enables us to become more and more like Christ�not only through word and action, but at the level of being. It is as though a new kind of sap is running through the branches that we are on his vine, and we grow new leaves and bear more fruit accordingly. Most amazing!

Take a few moments now to consider the seven gifts of the Spirit. How do you experience them in your life? You might compare their manifestation during an earlier part in life with where you are now to get a perspective on this. Which of the gifts seems strongest in you? Weakest? What helps them to grow?

Additional Reading

Gifts of the Holy Spirit
http://www.catholiceducation.o...religion/re0451.html

Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost
http://www.catholiceducation.o...religion/re0451.html
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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It seems to me that the transformative gifts of Wisdom, Knowledge and Counsel are very similiar.. listening to Her promptings and knowing what She wants us to do.

Conf. 4: "The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit give us a good way to recognize Christian character. They describe the kind of intelligence and willingness that the Spirit produces in people who are being transformed in Christ."

I thought that the fruit of the Spirit was what characterized a Spirit filled person.

Am glad to read in Conf. 4 that God will make it known to us if He wants more of us. Sometimes I wonder if I try too hard to be transformed, or if I don't "try" or do enough.

I guess that my strongest gifts are (being the type that ponders a lot) wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. My weakest are probably Piety, Fortitude (for sure :-) and fear of the Lord.

Katy
 
Posts: 535 | Location: Sarasota, Florida | Registered: 17 November 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Good point, Katy. I'll be saying more about the fruits of the Spirit in a later conference, but there surely is a connection. Generally, the fruits are considered the consequences of the exercise of spiritual gifts--transformative and charismatic (tomorrow's conference). How do you know if something is from the Holy Sprit, then? You look to see the fruits of the endeavor . . . e.g., love, joy, peace, patience and others. Where these are present and growing, you can rest assured that the Spirit has been working.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Some of us have questioned whether or not we have truly encountered the Holy Spirit on any particular occasion, for instance, such as when being confirmed, prayed over or annointed, or in any particular way, for instance, such as having received this or that charismatic gift or gift of sanctification.

We question whether we have truly known the Spirit through Scripture and Tradition and the Magisterium, through the words and symbols of Sacramental Liturgy, as power and inspiration and gift. So many of the words and concepts, above, which are about God's work, can seem too abstract and very difficult to discern as concrete experiences in our everyday lives. Below, then, is another type of examen that anyone can use to discern the action of the Holy Spirit in one's life.

The Holy Spirit, we are taught in the Catholic Catechism (#741), is the artisan of God's work and is the master of prayer . Ask yourself, therefore, when, today, did I:

a) bless
b) adore
c) petition
d) intercede
e) thank
f) praise

whether
1) vocally
2) meditatively
3) contemplatively

steadfastly
i) facing difficulties and temptations in prayer
ii) praying with filial trust and humility
iii) praying constantly, always and for everything, at all times in the Spirit
iv) uniting my prayer to my works and my works to my prayer?

Perform this simple Examen and know that each moment of any such prayer is initiated by the Holy Spirit and is an indelible sign of your cooperation with God's will.

As Thomas Merton noted, there may indeed be times when we truly don't know if we are pleasing God, except that we can always know that our desire to please God indeed pleases God. So, too, there may indeed be times when we truly cannot palpably feel or clearly discern the Spirit's empowerment, inspiration or giftedness in our lives, specifically, whether we have encountered the Holy Spirit on any particular occasion or in any particular way.

We can, however, always know this: Our every prayer 1) unquestionably marks the Presence of the Holy Spirit, 2) undeniably reveals our cooperation and surrender to God, and 3) fully entails a) empowerment, b) inspiration and c) gifting by the Spirit that is both i) sanctifying and ii) charismatic (because we only invoke because we have been convoked).

I thought I'd introduce this, here, 'less anyone lose heart in otherwise discerning both the transformative and charismatic gifts in their lives. You got to pray, just to make it today.

pax, pray for me and know I am praying for you through this post, Smiler
jboy
 
Posts: 2881 | Registered: 25 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I have experienced all of the transformative gifts of the Holy Spirit.
 
Posts: 8 | Registered: 03 June 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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johnboy wrote:

Perform this simple Examen and know that each moment of any such prayer is initiated by the Holy Spirit and is an indelible sign of your cooperation with God's will.

Thanks johnboy. I found your posting on this very helpful. And it wasn't long, either! Imagine that! Wink

Anne
 
Posts: 172 | Location: Missouri | Registered: 10 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thanks, Anne. Sometimes I like to mine coal. Sometimes I like to cut diamonds. I'm mostly a miner though and not a diamond cutter, hence my posts' more usual dark and dirty appearance. Eeker

love,
jboy
 
Posts: 2881 | Registered: 25 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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