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Archive for September, 2010

The Empowerment Gifts (Part 2) : Why We Need Them

Return to Jerusalem

Go into all the world ...

“And he [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:15-25)

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.’ (Acts 2:14-18)

Opened Your Gifts Yet?

Opened Your Gifts Yet?

“But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” (1 Cor. 12: 7-11)

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

From the above scriptures it is clear that the spiritual empowerment gifts are certainly Jesus’ legacy for all believing Christians. In this article, I intend to briefly discuss them and their practice within the Christian community. However, before entering into a discussion of these gifts, let me first confront the first intellectual obstacle we all face when we first attempt to come to an understanding of these spiritual gifts. This obstacle is the term “empowerment” itself.

This term is generally avoided in most discussions about these gifts. The reason for this is that the term is so theologically tinged that the more politically neutral term, “charisms” is more frequently used.  The term is provocative because it appears to encroach on what is customarily (though incorrectly) thought to be the domain of the ordained clergy exclusively.  This cultural conditioning usually presents a barrier for the average Christian because it hold us back from even thinking that we, the laity, are included in the “Promise of the Father”.  My previous posting was intended, of course, to disabuse us of that concept.

The book of Acts make it very clear that the “Promise of the Father” is for all who believe (Acts 2:38-39) and the Apostle Paul also makes it clear that the responsibility of the ordained or appointed ministries (ie., clergy) is to train, not restrain, the laity in the Empowerment Gifts of the Spirit for the building up of the Body of Christ here on Earth (Eph.4: 11-13). All the pertinent scriptures indicate that this empowerment is distributed amongst all of the believers as the “Spirit wills” and NOT as man wills.

An example of how the Spirit empowers common, everyday believers to accomplish His work amongst us, is the case of Ananias of Damascus (Acts 9:10-18).  He was an ordinary lay member of the church at Damascus around the time when Saul of Tarsus was raiding these congregations to bring the Jewish believers in Messiah to judgment in Jerusalem.

When the Lord stopped Saul in his tracks as he was on his way to Damascus, He rebuked Saul, asking him, “Why are you persecuting me?”.  After the encounter with the Lord, Saul, who was blinded during his confrontation with the Lord, was taken to a certain house in Damascus. The Holy Spirit, working through the Empowerment Gifts in Ananias told him to go to this certain house and to prophesy to Saul, to lay hands on him for healing and to baptize him thus bringing to conclusion Saul’s conversion. A conversion through which the Lord used Saul, who later took the name of “Paul”, to reach the greater part of the gentile world and whom He used to write a significant part of the contents of the New testament.

In the same way that the Lord used Ananias, brethren, the Lord is calling all of us lay persons to put aside our culturally inspired qualms, yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit and accept the empowerment gifts He has destined for us. In this way we open ourselves to be led by the Spirit as was Ananias, so that we also, through the power of the Spirit can participate in the work of God’s salvation on this Earth.

Now, it must also be made clear that these gifts are NOT for personal exaltation or sanctification but are meant for the service to the community. Just as Jesus said: “I have come not to be served but to serve”(Matt. 2:28), so we who accept these gifts are called to die to ourselves so that Christ may serve the community through us. That is why St. Paul (the converted Saul), placed the LOVE chapter (Chapter 13) in the midst of his teaching on the spiritual gifts in his first letter to the Corinthians.

The problem that Paul had with the Corinthian community, and which we have today, is that while they accepted the gifts with enthusiasm (perhaps excessively so), they lacked the spiritual maturity to administer the gifts with love, humility and order. Thus it behooves the leaders of our communities to not only foster and nurture the charisms, but to provide the spiritual guidance, teaching and leadership needed to ensure that the gifts are properly administered in Jesus’ Name under the leading of the Spirit and NOT in response our own whims and fancies.

Without further ado then, let us begin our discussion on the Empowerment Gifts of the Spirit.  While the Holy Spirit blends and combines these gifts as He wills, creating a great variety of manifestations, it is best to begin by considering the nine basic or foundational gifts or charisms that are summarized by Paul in 1 Corinthians Chapter Twelve.  These are the basic gifts that form the foundation or structure for the blended gifts and the ministry gifts that we will consider later.

What we need to remember as we go over these gifts is that these are Jesus’ gifts, NOT ours. These gifts are the same gifts that Jesus received at His anointing and which He practiced during His ministry, only now they have been distributed by the Holy Spirit amongst the members of His Body so that He may continue to minister through us today. In fact, the best way we can observe and study the operation of these gifts in Jesus’ ministry is through the reading of the Gospels.

In order to present a brief yet comprehensive overview, I will summarize and categorize these foundational spiritual gifts or charisms (1 Cor. 12: 7-11) as follows:

The Revelation Gifts

• Word of Wisdom • Word of Knowledge •Discernment of Spirits

The Power Gifts

• Faith • Healing • Working of Miracles

The Utterance or Inspirational Gifts

• Prophecy • Tongues • Interpretation of Tongues

(Other Gifts that are derived from the gift of tongues are, for example, singing in the spirit or praying in the spirit, cf., 1 Cor.14:14-15)

Regarding the Revelation Gifts

The revelation gifts are those manifestations of the Spirit whereby the Holy Spirit infuses a supernatural wisdom, knowledge or discernment to a ministering believer regarding a specific situation where the believer is being led to or is in the process of ministering to another. For instance if one is in the process of ministering healing to a petitioner, the Holy Spirit may, through a word of knowledge, sometimes reveal the existence of a spiritual obstacle to the healing. That obstacle may be a hidden sin, an evil spiritual influence, or an inordinate attachment. Based on the revelation provided the minister may also receive a word of wisdom regarding how best to use the revealed knowledge to pray for the subject requesting healing.  The revelations may also involve promptings from the Holy Spirit regarding the needs of specific individuals in a prayer meeting or in a person’s normal day-to-day activities leading the individual to attend to a personal situation only the Holy Spirit would know about.  It is then the responsibility of the individual so inspired to act in obedience and faith on what he/she has received and thus effectuate the blessing the Lord has for the person under ministry.

For instance, in the discernment of spirits, the ministering believer is given a revelation of demonic forces affecting a person or persons in a specific situation or circumstances. This spiritual insight will usually be accompanied by a word of knowledge or word of wisdom guiding the minister in what action to take in order to dislodge the spiritual oppression from the individual being prayed for.

These gifts are often blended with other gifts such as healing, miracles and prophesy in order for the overall manifestation of the Spirit to have its full effect.

The gifts of wisdom and knowledge manifested here must be distinguished from the sanctifying gifts of the same name. The sanctifying gifts of wisdom and knowledge are also supernatural gifts but these deal with providing knowledge and wisdom into the very mind and heart of God leading to an enhancement of our personal relationship with Him as the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of the Son.

Regarding the Power Gifts

~ The Gift of Faith:  This gift is distinguished from the other “Gift of Faith” through which we receive salvation through the Word in that the latter Gift is part of the Sanctifying Graces that bring or own person to salvation and sanctification, while the former Gift of Faith, which is under discussion here, is similar to the Word of Knowledge Gift, in that it is a specific faith, for a specific circumstance, given to us so that we may be a channel of God’s grace, like healing or miracles, to benefit another person rather than ourselves.

For this reason this Gift is almost always used in conjunction with another of the Power Gifts. This gift is essentially a revelation in one’s spirit of a work of power that God intends to do – it is this knowing of God’s specific will for a particular circumstance to happen that triggers a certainty in our spirit that if we act on this inspiration it will come to pass. It is this type of faith that the apostle Paul refers to as the faith that moves mountains (1Cor. 13:2).

~ The Gift of Healing: This gift is that gift we also see exhibited in the Gospels where Jesus heals individuals from all manners of disease, sometimes by laying on of hands, sometimes by merely touching someone, and sometimes by, or through, an authoritative command for the illness to leave.

~ The Working of Miracles:  This gift has various manifestations. It sometimes involves walking on water, multiplying loaves and fishes, and raising people from the dead. In our modern world the manifestation of this gift we see the most is that of “creative miracles”, that is, when an arm or a leg is created where only a stump existed, or where people born with deformities or missing eye sockets are immediately healed. Again here, this gift is usually triggered and blended with another gift such as a word of knowledge or the gift of faith.

Regarding The Utterance or Inspirational Gifts

These gifts are mainly provided the Body of Christ to permit the Persons of the Trinity to communicate with the Christian community for the purpose of: exhortation, consolation, teaching, spiritual guidance, discipline, and expressing God’s love and delight for His people. There are instances where actual foretelling of coming situations occurs but, unlike the Old Testament prophetic utterances, the New Testament gift is mainly used for forth-telling to build up the church rather than foretelling.

The inspirational gifts of Prophesy, Tongues, and Interpretation of Tongues are the spiritual gifts through which the Lord communicates with His people or to a particular person to bring about a spiritual change in that individual or individuals for the enhancement of their faith and spiritual growth of the community. That is why the the gift of Prophecy is manifested in the language of the congregation so that it is a direct message to them that will move their spirits to a state that will allow them to act in faith for the benefit of the community.

The gift of Tongues is a prophetic utterance in an unknown language (1Cor.13:1) and as a result requires someone in the congregation to have the complementary gift of Interpretation of Tongues so that the congregation may comprehend the message.

All of the above manifestations of the gifts are intended for the Godhead to communicate with His people. However, the gift of Tongues also accommodates its use as a personal prayer language where individuals may pray, praise, and sing to the creator directly from their spirits, thus bypassing their minds (souls). See a previous post on “Praying in the Spirit”. In such a situation it is man speaking to God (1 Cor.14:2) rather than God to man.

Regarding The Appointed or Ordained Ministry Gifts

In order for the Empowerment Gifts to achieve the purpose for which the Lord intended there are, of necessity certain other overarching gifts that are also provided to impart, nurture, coordinate and guide the practice and use of the charisms within the community. The Apostle Paul lists the five most important of these gifts in his letter to the Ephesians. These are sometimes termed as the “Five-fold Ministry gifts”.

“The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” (Eph. 4:11-12)

Paul elaborates this list further in his first letter to the Corinthians, saying,

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?  But strive for the greater gifts. … “ (1Cor. 12:27-31)

From this we conclude that the Holy Spirit, through Paul, not only imparted the empowerment gifts upon confirmation to the community in general but also appointed (ie., ordained) leaders whom the Spirit had endowed with very strong specific anointing in certain areas of ministry. These included Apostles (used as a general term which included evangelists), Prophets, Teachers, Ministers of Deeds of Power (Miracles, Faith and Healing), Coordinators of the gifts in ministry and assistance to the community (this was a leadership gift), and Interpreters for the meetings.

These Leadership gifts were an absolute necessity if the community was to grow not only in numbers but in spiritual maturity so that they, with the gifts that were allocated to them by the Spirit would be effective instruments in ministering to one–another and to the outside world. They were also necessary to bring order and submission in agape Love to each other so that they could act in unison as a community. Chapter 13, in the first letter to the Corinthians, is very specific about the role that self-denying, agape Love is to play in the community and the subordinate role of the spiritual gifts to this type of love.  Chapter 14 provides more explicit teaching an guidance from Paul on the practice and use of the spiritual gifts within the community.

Regarding the Role of the Trinity

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.

There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

There are different kinds of working,

but the same God works all of them in all men.”

(1 Cor. 12:4-6)

It is interesting to note how Paul, under sacred inspiration, attributes the roles of the Holy Trinity to the Charismatic Gifts. First, he tells us that the diversity and distribution of the gifts is the work of the Holy Spirit.  That is, the types and kinds of Gifts available to the church are His responsibility. Then he indicates that the administration (or ministry) of the Gifts is under the Lordship of Jesus. That is, since the Gifts are a continuation Jesus’ ministry He is the one who establishes specific ministries using the Gifts under His Lordship. Thirdly Paul indicates that the power behind all the workings of the Gifts stems from the Father Himself!

Concluding Prayer

In conclusion, dear family of God, I lift up, on your  behalf, the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Church,

“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Eph. 1:17-23)

May you desire and strive for the empowerment gifts which we have as our legacy in Christ Jesus.  Amen

Your Brother in Christ,

Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2010])

Recommended  Links

Empowerment of the Catholic Laity

Releasing The Spirit

Praying in the Spirit

The Empowerment Gifts (Part 1)

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Empowerment Gifts of the Spirit (Part 1): Our Legacy In Christ

[Selected Scripture Regarding the Promise of the Father]

1) BEFORE PENTECOST:

Return to Jerusalem

Wait for the Promise

“While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the Promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5)

“And behold, I am sending forth the Promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24-49)

“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. And at this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together) …” (Acts 1:12-15)

2) ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST:

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all [120 of them] together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All [120] of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:1-4)

3) AFTER PENTECOST:


Peter said to them [the crowd of 3000 that gathered after the Spirit had fallen on the 120 disciples], “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and [then] you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the Promise [of the Father] is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” (Acts 2-38-39)

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My fellow Pilgrims,

I have spoken before about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and how they may be classified under two main categories. Namely, the Sanctifying Gifts and the Empowerment Gifts, sometimes called charisms. The Empowerment Gifts are the Gifts which came on the Church at Pentecost and which are the manifestation of what scripture terms, “The Promise of the Father”. The Sanctifying Gifts correspond to those graces one receives at conversion and Water Baptism, while the Empowerment Gifts refer to the Gifts received at  Confirmation and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit  (cf., The Double Portion Anointing).

I have also mentioned that these two facets of spiritual gifting are indicated in several scriptures of which the ones I will mention below are but a few.

First of all let us consider what Jesus told Nicodemus, that in order to “enter the Kingdom”, that is to share in His ministry, one must be born of water and the Spirit (Jn.3:1-21). We receive Water Baptism when we come to the knowledge of the truth and accept Jesus for who He is, repent of our sins, and accept Him as our Lord and Savior.  In this baptism we are baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27) and receive the Sanctifying Gifts with which the Holy Spirit begins the process of conforming us to the image of the Son. (cf., The Kingdom Of God: Our Spiritual Inheritance).

The graces we receive through water baptism are the inner Graces of Christ himself as prophesied in Isaiah 11.  These graces are termed by St. John as the “inner anointing” and by St. Thomas Aquinas as Sanctifying Grace (cf., The Sanctifying Gifts, Part 1 and Part 2).  These are the graces given to each believer for his or her personal sanctification, that through these graces we may incorporate Christ’s holiness and character into our own lives, and in this way permit His presence to operate through us to the salvation of others (Summa Theologica, Vol XI, Nature and Grace, 12 ae, Q111, Art.1, Par. 3).

In Confirmation or thereafter we receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to empower us to be the agents of God’s grace to the community (Matt. 3:11, Mk. 11;8, Lk 3:16). Thus, in accord with Aquinas, these gifts are not for our personal benefit bit for the benefit of the community and are termed by him under the category of “actual” or  “free” grace. This is what I call the “outer anointing” we believers receive to be the channels  of God’s grace to the community as agents of Christ through which He ministers to the body of Christ and the world through us. These nine basic spiritual empowerment gifts are listed by St. Paul in 1 Cor. 12 ff ( cf., Pentecost and the Promise of the Father).

In receiving these graces we need to understand that what we are receiving are supernatural gifts, that is, gifts that operate over and above our own natural gifts and, in fact sometimes are intended to override our own natural talents. In order for these gifts to operate to their fullness in us and through us requires our full cooperation. The Holy Spirit does not work through a set of robots or zombies but through a fully yielded believer who cedes his/her cooperation as an act of agape Love (Rom. 12:1-2 ) – a love that gives of itself through obedience to the leadings of the Holy Spirit of God (cf., The Sweet Yoke of Love). If we attempt to move in these gifts with impure motives, that is, out of self-motivated carnal desires, we will walk in the flesh and the results of the gifts will not be beneficial to the community or to us but rather to the detriment of ourselves and the community (1Cor. 13 ff, and Matt. 7:21-23).

One of the reasons I present these series of articles on the empowerment gifts is to assist you in breaking out of the hold our human nature has on us to be conformed to the world and to present to you the Word of God regarding the charisms, so that in yielding yourself to the Spirit He may began to conform you to the image of the Son and empower you to act and live in His Name. As long as we let the world dictate to us how we are to think and act, we will not be able to become that which the Father has destined for us, that is, to become His fully empowered children in the image of His Son.

Just as Jesus received the anointing of the Spirit to empower Him to fulfill His role as Messiah, so also, when the Lord places a call on our lives he also makes available to us the empowerment gifts or charisms necessary to fulfill that the role for which He has called us. These spiritual gifts are over and above the Sanctifying Gifts we receive at baptism. These are the gifts through which Jesus, works through us to minister to His church and the world. If we neglect to accept and utilize these gifts we are denying our Lord an opportunity to work through us to bring His compassion and love to heal and strengthen His Body. That, in itself, should be enough motivation for all Christians to yield themselves to the Holy Spirit and His gifts.

Before expounding more specifically on the Empowerment Gifts of the Spirit in the postings to come, I believe it would help if we were all on the same page, so to speak, in our overall understanding of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and the Spiritual Gifts. Therefore, to get us started, I conclude this posting with an excerpted article by Father Thomas Foster S.J., Bishop’s Liaison to the Charismatic Renewal, Diocese of San Jose, California (circa 1993). This article provides an excellent basic summary of the Empowerment Gifts, thus laying the foundation for the articles to follow.

May the Holy Spirit re-kindle the Flame of Love In your hearts and may He incite you to desire the spiritual gifts to the Glory of Christ Jesus Our Lord!!

Your Fellow Pilgrim …. Bartimeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2010])

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The Catholic Experience of Renewal and the Charismatic Gifts

By Fr. Thomas Foster S.J.

On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, ” Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him’.” He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. ” [John 7:37-39]

One of many spiritual renewals within the Catholic Church, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal started in 1967 when a handful of students and university theology professors from Duquesne University got together for a retreat weekend. From this small and inconspicuous beginning, by 1990 the movement had grown to include more than 72 million Catholics world-wide (over 15 million in America). It has official organizations in 120 countries around the world. Many believe that this renewal is a direct result of Vatican II and Pope John XXIII’s prayer: “O Holy Spirit … pour fourth the fullness of your gifts … Renew your wonders in this our day as by a new Pentecost.”

The Catholic Charismatic movement is not simply a renewal of the charisms found in the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians [Chapter 12]. It centers on the renewal of individual commitment to the person of Jesus Christ. This commitment has been the center of every authentic renewal in the history of the Church. The commitment begins by the re-anointing with the presence of the Holy Spirit; what is sometimes called “The Baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

This occurs when individuals ask Jesus Christ, who is the one who gives the Holy Spirit, to stir up the gift of the Holy Spirit within their hearts. St. Paul admonished Timothy: “I remind you to stir into flame the Gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.” [2 Tim 1:6]

This is primarily a renewal of the gifts received in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. The results are many. Along with the reception of the charisms, people who have experienced this renewal in the Holy Spirit talk of a new and deeper personal knowledge of Jesus. They find new power in prayer, a new love of scripture, and a new and deeper appreciation of the Church, of the liturgy, and of the sacraments.

These characteristics of the Charismatic Renewal have led both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II to actively encourage the faithful and the clergy to become involved in the Charismatic Renewal. This approval was first dramatically demonstrated by Pope Paul VI in 1975. He, personally, invited the renewal to hold its annual conference in Rome. In a special session during that conference the Pope stated: “Nothing is more necessary to this more and more secularized world than the witness of the `spiritual renewal’ that we see the Holy Spirit evoking in the most diverse regions and milieux…How then could this `spiritual renewal’ not be a `chance’ for the Church and for the world? And how, in this case, could one not take all the means to ensure that it remains so.”

Pope John Paul II, following the lead of Pope Paul VI, has also met with groups of charismatic people and, at one such encounter, said: “Remain in an attitude of constant and grateful availability for every gift that the Spirit wishes to pour into your hearts.” Encouraged by the leadership of Pope Paul VI and John Paul II, the Catholic bishops of the United States, Canada, and many bishops in South America and Europe, have written pastoral statements supporting and encouraging the renewal. The bishops of the United States, in their pastoral letter to the American Church on the Charismatic Renewal, wrote the following in 1984: ” … the charismatic renewal is rooted in the witness of the gospel tradition: Jesus is Lord by the power of the Spirit to the glory of the Father.”

Insofar as the Charismatic Renewal makes its own this primary reality of the Gospel, it witnesses to elements of the Good News that are central, not optional: the covenant love of the Father, the Lordship of Jesus, the power of the Spirit, sacramental and community life, prayer, charisms and the necessity of evangelization. Insofar as the renewal makes its own what is central to the enduring reality of the Gospel, it cannot be dismissed as peripheral to the life of the Church. Clearly the Charismatic Renewal is in and for the Church, not alongside the Church. Because the Charismatic Renewal is at the heart of the Church, it also has a role in parish renewal. We wish those in the Charismatic Renewal to know that we make our own the view of Yves Congar: “The Charismatic Renewal is a grace for the Church.”

We assure those in the Charismatic Renewal of the support they enjoy from the bishops of the United States, and we encourage them in their efforts to renew the life of the Church.

Perhaps a few words about the charisms are in order. Vatican II echoes St. Paul in stating: It is not only through the sacraments and Church ministries that the same Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the people of God. He distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank…”The manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for profit.” [1 Cor 12:7]

These charismatic gifts, whether they be the most outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation, for they are exceedingly suitable and useful for the needs of the Church.” [L.G. 12]So the gifts, supernatural and ordinary, are gifts not to individuals, but to the community. These gifts are given to build up God’s people, and the Holy Spirit distributes “them individually to each person as he wishes. ” [1 Cor 12:11] Hence, they do not indicate the sanctity of the individual.

The gifts that are found in the Charismatic Renewal are outlined in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians [Chapter 12] : “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge… to another faith… to another gifts of healing… mighty deeds (miracles)… prophecy… discernment of spirits… variety of tongues… interpretation of tongues.” [1 Cor 12:7-10]

Hence, the list includes gifts through which God gives understanding about himself and the Christian walk; wisdom, knowledge, and discernment. Gifts through which God acts in his community; faith, healing, and miracles. And gifts through which God speaks to his people; prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues.

The Gifts of the Spirit

The following is a brief description of these gifts:

WISDOM: The gift by which the Holy Spirit directs a person to make the right decision or judgment and to live a true Christian life. Generally most Catholics acknowledge this gift by praying for the Light of the Spirit.

KNOWLEDGE: The gift by which the Spirit gives a person a deeper understanding of a Mystery of Faith or specific knowledge about a person or situation that could not be known, unless God revealed it. Many priests experience this gift in the sacrament of reconciliation.

FAITH: This gift inspires a person to pray with God given confidence. Knowing that what is asked for will be granted. This should not be confused with the virtue of faith (believing Christian truths). Jesus told his disciples that “whoever says to this mountain, `Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him.” [Mark 11:23]

HEALING: This is one gift which Catholics accept in the lives of the saints, but find it difficult to accept in the lives of ordinary Christians. This gift speeds up the natural healing powers of the body. Jesus healed many who came to him, for example, Peter’s mother-in-law.

MIRACLES: This gift is different from healing in that it does not depend on the laws of nature. An example of a miracle, or mighty deed, is the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

PROPHECY: This is a gift by which God, through a person, speaks a message to an individual or to the whole Christian community. It is God making use of someone, to state what He thinks about the present situation, what His intention is for the future; or what He thinks they should know or be mindful of right now. It is not primarily nor necessarily a prediction of the future. St. Paul says, “One who prophesies does speak to human beings, for their building up, encouragement, and solace.” [1 Cor. 14:3]

DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS: Through this gift one senses the presence of good or evil spirits. Many experience a form of discernment when meeting people. Some people come across as loving and good; others radiate negative aspects. Primarily, this gift discerns the presence of the Holy Spirit.

TONGUES: Catholic Charismatics believe that God gives the gift of praying in an “unknown tongue” to anyone who seeks it. The person is able to speak this new language of praise of God, even though the individual does not understand what is being said. Actually, it is the Spirit of God within the heart praying. In the Book of Romans, St. Paul says, “the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.” [Rom 8:26-27] This gift of tongues is mentioned 57 times in the New Testament!

INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES: Occasionally, a member of a the assembly will speak out some message in tongues. This utterance will be accompanied by an interpretation of its contents. Tongues and interpretation, St. Paul tells us, are the equivalent to the gift of prophecy.

Collectively, these gifts are for the building up of God’s people. They have existed in one form or another throughout the history of the Christian church. For example, the Orthodox Communions have them listed in their canon law, and many of their monks exhibit them.

The Prayer Group

At the present time in the Catholic Church, these “charismatic” gifts are usually experienced in the context of a prayer meeting. The main purpose of prayer meetings is to give glory to God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Most of the meeting consists of praising God with spontaneous prayers and with singing. These periods of prayer will be punctuated by scripture reading, sharing, and prayers for the particular needs of individuals. During the meeting the charisms will be exercised, although they do not always play a part. The typical meeting follows St. Paul’s directive: “When you assemble, one has a psalm, another an instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or interpretation. Everything should be done for building up.” [1 Cor 14:26]

In another place, St. Paul charges the Christians: “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and praying to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” [Eph 5:18-20]

Finally, in one of his earliest writings, St. Paul exhorts Christians to “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil” [1 Thes. 5:16-22]

Copyright © 1995-2001 Catholic Charismatic Center of San Jose, CA

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