Reading anything much at all in the Catholic sphere or on social media, it very quickly becomes apparent how many spiritual gifts are out there in the world – the Holy Spirit is as active today as He was at Pentecost.
Looking at some of the people whose words I read regularly, I see some who have a depth of knowledge and understanding of Scripture, who know exactly what page to open to find the right quotation at those moments when such words are needed by someone else. I see others who pray strenuously and consistently for those around them and for those in particular need at any given moment. And I see some who are very well able to rebut false and specious arguments through the use of apologetics. Others still emanate a sense of joy which is very attractive to those within and outwith the Catholic faith.
I marvel at these people and the gifts they have been given.
Well and good though that is, there is perhaps a danger that we then take a hard look at ourselves and ask – ‘but what are my gifts?’.
Of course, humility may well prevent us from asking that question in the first place – or it may temper the answer we give in response. That is not to say we deny the presence of any gifts we may have been given, which would be a false humility; rather, it helps us to see past the gifts themselves and give thanks to the One who gives them.
In Scripture, we read this –
“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit.. to each individual, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” (1 Cor. 12:4-7)
What is clear, then, is the great abundance of a variety of spiritual gifts – but all with the same overall purpose and all of them coming from the same divine Source, the Holy Spirit.
Each spiritual gift has a specific purpose – it is ‘given for some benefit’. Our task, then, is to fulfil that purpose by using those gifts as they are intended. The parable of the servant and the talents echoes the thought here; one day, we will be asked to give an account of the use we have made of any gifts we might have been granted.
In looking perceptively within ourselves – or in listening to others and the comments they make – it may become apparent that we have been given some gifts, and the nature of these. At all times, we should remember why they are called ‘gifts’ – they are not ours, but have been given to us, to be used for a specific reason; we have not produced them, but are simply called to make good use of them. Because of this, we have no right to take any credit for them – that credit belongs to the Divine Giver alone, not to the receiver.
All of this is echoed in the various lives of the Saints throughout the history of the Church.
Each Saint was slightly different to every other Saint; each had their own style, their own purpose, their own reason for being placed before us as exemplars by the Church in her wisdom. And for many of then, sanctity was not something that came naturally, nor was it something that was aleways apparent from the beginning – it was something that had to be sought and then deepened and made good use of, that it might then bear good fruit. For the Saints, sanctity was the living out – day after day after day – of the gifts granted by the Lord; it was that pearl of infinite value, the cost of which was the selling of everything else in order to purchase it.
In looking around at the gifts given to others, may the Lord grant us the grace to become humbly aware of our own spiritual gifts; and the grace, also, to put our own gifts to good use as He intended us to do.