The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

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At the Last Supper Jesus spoke about a very special gift that he was going to give his followers:  "Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling within him" (Jn 14:23).

Jesus tells us that God will actually come to live within those who love him and obey his commands!  And where the Father and Son are, of course, the Spirit will be there also.  This gift of God-within-us is called the indwelling of the Trinity.  As long as we are in the state of sanctifying grace, God will live in our souls.  Saint Paul wrote about this in his first letter to the Corinthians:  "Are you not aware that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  The temple of God is holy, and you are that temple"  (1 Cor 3:16-17).

The mystery of God-within-us is often mentioned in the New Testament by Saint Paul.  He reminds us that this presence makes us more than God's creatures - it makes us his children:  "The proof that you are sons is the fact that God has sent forth into our hearts the spirit of his Son which cries out 'Abba!' ('Father!')"  (Gal 4:6).

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Along with this holy presence of God, the Spirit brings seven gifts to our souls at Confirmation.  They are the same spiritual powers that were poured out upon Jesus as he began his mission of preaching the Good News of salvation.  The prophet Isaiah foretold these gifts eight hundred years before Jesus was born:
The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him (the Messiah): a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord (piety), and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. (Is 11:2-3).

Wisdom:  Helps us to see that the world is only a temporary place for us, that Heaven is our true home.  It helps us to set our hearts on the things that really count in life, such as God, virtue, and prayer.
Understanding:  Gives us an insight into the mysteries of faith and helps us to explain the faith to others.
Knowledge:  Helps us to see everything in life in relation to God and eternity.
Counsel:  Helps us to make correct decisions about God's will for our lives.
Fortitude:  Gives us the strength to be faithful to Christ even when it is difficult to do so.
Piety:  Inspires us to worship God and to love him as our Father.
Fear of the Lord:  Shows us the evil of sin and helps us to live in God's grace.  It is also called "wonder and awe" in God's presence because it reminds us that he is great and all-powerful.

Many people wonder if they really have these gifts; they don't seem to be present in their lives.  Perhaps these Christians have looked upon the gifts as some kind of magic - they expect them to "pop up" when needed.  But this is not how the gifts work in us.  Like faith, hope, and charity, we have to exercise our spiritual muscles in order to use these wonderful powers.  We must pray to the Holy Spirit asking him to show us how to use them.  Try to ask God to help you use them when a need arises.  For example, if you are strongly tempted to go to a party where drugs will be used, ask for the gift of fortitude to help you overcome the temptation.  The holy Spirit will answer your prayer and show you what to do.

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit

As we grow in prayer and in the use of these seven gifts, we will see certain effects taking place in our lives.  These are called the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  When we see a tree that is blossoming and producing delicious fruit, we know that it is a healthy plant.  It is the same with the Christian life.  We will know that our spiritual life is healthy if we see these fruits in our relationships with God and others.

Charity:  Love for God and for others.
Joy:  Happiness in living the Christian life.
Peace:  Inner calmness, even in difficulties.
Patience:  Kindly putting up with the faults of others.
Kindness:  Sympathy and concern for the needs of others.
Goodness:  Giving good example in all that we do.
Continence:  Proper balance in our desire for pleasure.
Mildness:  Being gentle in our words and deeds toward others.
Fidelity:  Loyalty to God and the people we are committed to, such as one's parents, spouse, good friends.
Longsuffering:  Extraordinary patience in enduring suffering.
Modesty:  Respecting ourselves and others in conversations, dress, etc.
Chastity:  Proper attitude toward others and control over our sexual desires.

Jesus told us that we will produce these fruits of the Spirit only if we are united with him through prayer and the sacraments.  He compared himself to a vine which carries sap to its branches; the "sap" is a symbol for his grace and power: "I am the vine; you are the branches.  He who lives in me and I in him will produce fruit abundantly, for apart from me you can do nothing: (Jn 15:5).

 Used with the permission of The Ignatius Press 800-799-5534

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