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June 4, 2017

 Two weeks ago I attended an annual retreat for priests.  I had a wonderful time with other priests; most are still working in the parish; some are retired.  I had a chance to listen to the experiences of the older priests and some issues younger priests have to deal with.  I am a good listener that is why they want to talk to me.  Can you imagine some have served the people of God in the priesthood longer than my life?  Their examples give me courage and comfort in the midst of a society in which religion is not ultimately important and also strengthen my belief that the Holy Spirit is still at work in the Church.  The Holy Spirit is the driving force behind the Church and individuals to change and renew us.

I remember an old friend of mine, Joe, a communist and atheist, lost no opportunity to mock me about my priesthood and about what he saw as the irrelevance of Christianity, especially the Catholic Church.  One day we were out for a walk when we came across a gang of “toughies,” who were fighting and swearing in my neighbourhood.  Joe pointed to the scene and told me, “Look, Philip, it’s been 2000 years since Jesus came into the world and it’s still filled with aggression and violence.”  I said nothing.

Few minutes later we came upon a group of dirty faced kids playing soccer in the field.  Now it was my turn.  “Look, Joe, it’s over 2000 years since soap was first discovered, and yet the world’s still filled with dirty faces.  See that, nothing happens until they use the soap to wash their faces.”

Today we celebrate Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and changed their life totally.  But it’s wrong if we think that this happened overnight.  The change would have happened gradually when the apostles opened to the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  That explains why we, at our Confirmation, received the same gifts of the Holy Spirit and our life doesn’t change much or sometimes it changes for the worse.  To open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the key.  Do you know the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and how they can be used to live our Christian life?

  1. The Gift of Wisdom: Wisdom, the first of the gifts, is also the highest in dignity, since it makes the soul responsible to the Holy Spirit in the contemplation of divine things and in the use of God's ideas for evaluating every contingency in the secular and spiritual order. 

  2. The Gift of Understanding: Understanding is a supernatural enlightenment given to the mind for grasping revealed truths easily and profoundly. 

  3. The Gift of Knowledge: The gift of knowledge enables us, through some forms of relish and warmth of charity, to judge everything from supernatural viewpoint by means of lesser causes.

  4. The Gift of Counsel: Counsel is a special gift that assists the mind and perfects the virtue of prudence by enlightening a person on how to decide and command individual and supernatural acts. 

  5. The Gift of Piety: Piety as a gift of the Holy Spirit aids and supplements the virtue of justice by disposing us to show reverence for God as a most loving Father and for people as the sons and daughters of God. 

  6. The Gift of Fortitude: Fortitude as a gift goes beyond fortitude as a virtue by carrying to a successful conclusion even the most difficult tasks in the service of God.  The Holy Spirit leads us to eternal life, which is the final achievement of all we do, the escaping from all ills and dangers. 

  7. Fear of the Lord or Reverence: The seventh of gifts, and yet first in the rising scale of value, is the fear of the Lord, which confirms the virtue of hope and impels a person to a profound respect for the majesty God.  Its correlative effects are protection from sin through dread of offending the Lord, and a strong confidence in the power of his help.

 

Come, oh Holy Spirit!  Come, kindle a fire of love in our hearts, renew us with your gifts, and renew the face of the earth!