A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The work of the Spirit

We are all human beings and we act as human beings in everything we do, even in matters of faith and religion.

It is often good to keep this in mind and to bring to our lives of faith and fellowship the very best and highest aspects of our humanity.

But faith is more than an emotion or a theory and the Church is more than an ideological organization.

Indeed, too often many of us plan and evaluate what we do in matters of Church and faith as if they were simply human activities.

Most especially in ecclesial matters, from our local congregations to the highest levels of Church leadership, we might sometimes make observations and decisions as if the Church were simply a corporation, a government, or some kind of club.

Today's second reading (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) reminds us of two very important aspects of Church life that are very different from any corporation, government or club: faith and fellowship in Christ involves the manifestation of the Spirit and a diversity of gifts.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts
but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service
but the same Lord;
there are different workings
but the same God
who produces
all of them
in everyone.

To each individual
the manifestation of the Spirit
is given
for some benefit.

Human ability, education, and processes are important, but what truly empowers the Church and all its parts and all its members is the Holy Spirit of God.

The things of Church and faith are more than can be quantified by psychological, political, or organizational analysis.

That is one reason why St. Paul prefaces his discussion about the different offices within the Church (later in this chapter) with the discussion of diverse charismatic gifts we hear in today's reading.

It was not just that charismatic gifts were a particular focus (and cause for conflict) among the Corinthians: St. Paul's underlying point is that what happens among the People of God involves the activity of God.

...there are different forms of service
but the same Lord;
there are different workings
but the same God
who produces
all of them
in everyone.

The Church is not a democracy, nor is it Microsoft, nor is it the Red Cross: it is the body of believers in Christ, empowered and united by the Holy Spirit.

The charismatic gifts, otherworldly as they are, help remind us that the Church is not just another organization or corporate entity. St. Paul also reminds us that the gifts of God are, well, gifts: given according to the will of God, not by the choice of man.

To one is given through the Spirit
the expression of wisdom;
to another,
the expression of knowledge

according to the same Spirit;
to another, faith by the same Spirit;
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit;
to another, mighty deeds;
to another, prophecy;
to another, discernment of spirits;
to another, varieties of tongues;
to another, interpretation of tongues.

But one and the same Spirit

produces all of these,
distributing them individually to each person

as He wishes.

So it is for the charismatic gifts, so too for the other gifts, fruits, and offices bestowed by the Holy Spirit upon the people of his holy Church.

You and I advance more effectively in our faith as individuals and as a body when we take to heart this fundamental reality: it is not about me or you, nor will your effort or my effort make a difference. Church and faith, as a united reality in Christ, is all about God and it is ultimately by God.

We need to avoid the trap of seeing Church and faith as the world sees them. We need to acknowledge in our hearts that we - as individuals and as a Church - are absolutely dependent upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

To be sure, we also need to make the best use of the gifts of God given us in creation - our natural human intellect and perception - but we must always remember that it is the work of the Holy Spirit and so we must pray continually that the Holy Spirit will pour out upon us - as individuals and as Church - an ever greater abundance of the wonderful gifts he gives for the love and the benefit of his people.