By Allan Panozza
The Charisms or "Spiritual Gifts" were given to the Church on the day of Pentecost, and therefore we should consider the use of these Gifts as normal within the Catholic Church. St. Paul refers to the Spiritual Gifts in the letters which he wrote to the churches, particularly in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and Ephesians 4. In 1 Corinthians 12 he sets out a list of nine gifts of the Holy Spirit, all of which should be operative within the community of believers in Jesus Christ. These nine gifts which can be grouped under three headings, should be all as evident in the Church today as in the time of Paul.
The power to say.
Paul refers to the gifts of Prophecy in which the Lord speaks to a Community in the common language of those present. Charismatic Prayer Groups throughout the world are familiar with this gift, which Paul rates as being important in the life of the community, because the Word of the Lord will always lift up and encourage those who listen to it and receive it.
Sometimes the prophetic Word will be spoken in another language or tongue, in which event the Community will wait on a translation usually given by a different person with the special gift of Interpretation, also mentioned by St. Paul.
The third of these "Word" gifts is the gift of Prayer Tongues. This is simply the ability given by Almighty God to praise Him in the language of the Holy Spirit, in which the one praying in tongues will not understand the sounds, but only the Lord Himself can know the nature of the prayer which is prompted through the action of the Holy Spirit. Remember that in the exercise of the Word Gifts, the person with the gift is always in control of its use and can choose to yield to the action of the Holy Spirit at the appropriate moment..."For God is a God not of disorder but of peace" (1 Cor. 14:32).
The power to know.
St. Paul also speaks of the Gifts of Word of Wisdom and Word of Knowledge, which with the Gift of Discernment of Spirits can be linked together as the "Gifts of Knowledge". Jesus in the fullness of His humanity relied on the presence of the Holy Spirit in His life, and we see Him in the Gospel using the Word of Wisdom to refute the attacks made on Him by the Pharisees.
In Matthew 22.21, when Jesus seems to be in a "no win" situation over whether it was lawful or not under the Jewish Law to pay taxes to the Romans, He confounds, His adversaries when He orders them to "pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar - and to God what belongs to God.
Occasionally we are faced with situations in which we are called upon to make very important decisions which might affect our own lives or the lives of those who depend on us. In times such as these it is very appropriate to pray to the Lord for the Gift of Wisdom, so that the power of the Holy Spirit who resides in each of us through the Sacrament of Baptism, will enable us to determine the direction the Lord would have us follow.
On one occasion I was faced with a very distressing situation, in which I had to make an on the spot decision in a hospital concerning the form of treatment which my father was to undergo. I prayed to the Lord for help, and asked in my prayer that the Holy Spirit would guide my decision. As I stood in that hospital examination room, I clearly sensed the voice of the Lord answering my prayer. I discerned that the Lord was directing me to a course of action which was quite opposite to the opinion of the hospital staff.
We are able to judge if the Holy Spirit is at the source of an action by the fruits which follow. The fruits that followed my decision were good. I took my father home from that hospital, and he lived for a further twelve months in peace and contentment, before the Lord took him gently and without suffering.
In the ministry of praying for one another, the gift of the Word of Knowledge can be an important weapon provided by the Holy Spirit. This gift enables a person to speak with authority and deep insight into a truth or revelation from God. We see in Chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles how Peter stood up receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and how he was able to explain in detail to the assembled crowd the full meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and to challenge them to be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ, and to receive the Holy Spirit. The immediate consequence of his sermon was that the hearts of the people were touched, and that day about three thousand were converted.
The third of the Gifts of Knowledge is Discernment of Spirits, which enables a judgment to be made concern ing the source of an action. Within the community it is important that this gift is operative, as the evil one will always endeavor to take the focus away from Jesus and will bring confusion and fear. The source of any action or initiative can only come from God, from the devil, or I believe in the majority of situations from our own human spirit.
This was very evident in the Gospel, when Simon Peter proclaims to Jesus "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16), and Jesus applauds him on receiving this revelation directly from the Father in Heaven. Shortly afterwards, Simon Peter again speaks out but this time the motivation is from his own human spirit, when he responds to the revelation from Jesus that He will shortly be put to death and be raised to life on the third day. "This must not happen to you" says Peter, but instead of receiving support from Jesus he is scolded because..."you are thinking not as God thinks but as human beings do" (Matt. 16:23).
The power to do.
The final three gifts mentioned by St. Paul in this passage can be seen primarily as being gifts "in action".
The Charism of Healing is very evident in the Church today, with the frequent celebration of Mass being offered in parishes, with the particular intention of praying for the physical healing of those present. The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is often administered by the priest at these Masses, and I always marvel at the extraordinary power of this Sacrament to bring healing in body and mind.
At Charismatic Prayer Meetings it is mandatory that there should be a time of prayer for healing, when people will lay hands on another person and pray for the Lord to touch that person in the area of their need. In my experience, the Lord continues to heal through the ministry of faith filled people who exercise this Charism of Healing as a normal part of their vocation as disciples of Jesus Christ. Just as the one healed leper returned to give thanks to God, it is important that testimonies from those who receive healings give Jesus the glory.
I often wonder why some think that the Gift of Miracles should be exercised less frequently than the other gifts like Prophecy or Prayer Tongues. Jesus is the giver, and nothing is too difficult for Him. I have seen a woman blinded for eight years with an incurable medical condition, miraculously receive her sight back as she prayed over another blind person. I have seen a man who hobbled into a healing Mass on a deformed foot be instantaneously cured through the power of miracles, as we prayed to Jesus for His healing touch to come down upon those gathered in faith.
Finally, the Charism of Faith allows the one who exercises it to know with absolute certainty that God will answer the prayer not expressed. No better example of this gift can be seen than in Jesus standing before the tomb of Lazarus as He prays "Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer...Lazarus, come forth" (Jn 11:41-43).
These nine gifts and indeed all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit have been given to a pilgrim Church to help us in our journey of faith as we "struggle wearily onwards" (Col 1:29).Let us focus our attention only on Jesus, that we might yield more fully to His Grace in our lives, as He continues to send the Holy Spirit to endow us with His gifts.
This article was reprinted with permission from the May/June 1996 of the ICCRS Newsletter