Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Eighth Gift of the Holy Spirit

I know. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, following a long tradition, names only seven "Gifts of the Holy Spirit," most of these drawn directly from the prophet Isaiah (Is. 11):
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
 The only one of the traditional gifts  not in that Messianic prophecy is usually named "piety" (but the "delight" hints at that love of prayer). So what is this "eighth" gift the Catechism seems to have neglected?

As I meditate on the scene of the first Pentecost, what strikes me most is the boldness of the disciples. For over 50 days, they had been prisoners of fear. Suddenly, the dread fear that kept them locked tight in that safe upper room is gone, dissipated to the four winds by that one powerful breath of the Spirit. They weren't afraid anymore.

They were free.

"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Cor. 3:17). 

Delivered from fear, they were also delivered from the most common impediments to happiness. Vanished, the fear of loss, replaced by confidence of possession; the fear of danger, dismissed by the assurance of victory; the fear of death, utterly undone by the recognition that "through death [Jesus] had freed those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life" (see Heb. 2:14-15).
The freedom brought by the Holy Spirit became a kind of "platform" for all the other gifts that the disciples manifestly exercised from that day on, and without freedom even the most virtuous actions can't be virtuous.

As the Church in America prepares for a "Fortnight of Freedom,"  perhaps we can pray in a special way this Pentecost for an outpouring of that "first" gift of the Holy Spirit. "For freedom Christ has set us free!" (Gal. 5:1)

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