In the Hebrew Scripture, God offered Solomon any gift he could want. He chose wisdom. The gift is about the possibility of seeing things as God sees them. It is the gift to look at life with a different perspective – the perspective of faith. It is the possibility of knowing how to live a good life and striving to do that. It is about listening to the voice of the spirit in our heart and acting on those promptings.
It is easy to learn facts and figures, dates and places. The gift of understanding is the possibility to give meaning to what we learn through wisdom. On the road to Emmaus, the disciples met the Risen Jesus. Having explained everything that had happened in Jerusalem and why they were downcast, Jesus set out to explain everything in the scriptures about himself. The disciples knew the facts, Jesus helped them understand and make sense of those facts.
The world which young people inhabit today calls for this part of the gift of the Holy Spirit more than
anything else. They are bombarded with a myriad of choices and tempting alternatives. The gift of right judgement is the possibility of making the right choices in life, according to Christian values, and sometimes despite what our friends, society, or culture would have them believe is the right choice.
Coming closely on the previous part of the gift of the Holy Spirit is the courage to handle the consequences of Right Judgement. The gift of courage is the possibility to make the right choice even though we would rather go with the crowd, or follow the latest trends, the current fashions, and the will of the peer group. Young people today are not likely to be called to the courage of martyrdom as in the early Christian Community, but it can be inordinately difficult to stand up for your beliefs, or to take a stand against something you feel is wrong.
While not dissimilar to Wisdom and Understanding, the gift of Knowledge helps us to know about our faith and about the world. We often talk about making an informed decision about something and the Holy Spirit helps in the gaining of that knowledge. The gift requires a contribution on our part – we cannot know about the world just by divine inspiration. It requires effort on our part, but we have the possibility of the help of the Holy Spirit.
Traditionally this part of the gift of the Holy Spirit is about how we act religiously; blessing ourselves passing a Church, genuflecting, a sense of reverence when going to receive Holy Communion. It is still all these things, but it can mean much more. In interpreting this gift as reverence for all God’s creation we acknowledge the possibility of the respect and reverence for the environment, we acknowledge the reverence due to every person we meet, who like us are children of God and ‘a temple of the Holy Spirit’ .
Wonder and Awe in God’s Presence
Traditionally this was the part of the gift know as fear of the Lord. Wonder and Awe in God’s Presence sums it up better. It is the gift that helps us to see the work of God in the ordinary and extraordinary ways. It is an acknowledgement of the power of God working through our lives, through the lives of others around us, through the Church and through creation. ‘Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.’ (Matt. 6:28-29)
The Fruit of the Holy Spirit
An image that is often used with the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit is that of the tree. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are the roots of the tree, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit are, the fruits of the tree. If we are led by the Spirit and open to God’s gifts, the fruits of the Holy Spirit will be evident in our lives and in this way people will see that the Holy Spirit is active in our lives, in our work, in the way we treat others and in the way we serve the community of the Church as the practical living out of the gift of the Holy Spirit given at Confirmation. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is mentioned by St Paul in his letter to the Galatians 5:22 as the virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Paul sees the fruit of the Holy Spirit as the counterbalance for the various vices. The gifts and fruits of the Spirit are also alluded to in the second letter to the Corinthians 6:6, in the letter to the Colossians 3: 12-15 and in the letter to the Ephesians 4:2, 5:9. In the Alive-O programme the fruits of the Holy Spirit are described as follows:
Love – the Spirit lives!
Joy – the Spirit dances!
Peace – the Spirit rests!
Patience – the Spirit waits!
Kindness – the Spirit gives!
Goodness – the Spirit moves!
Gentleness – the Spirit acts!
Faithfulness – the Spirit dwells!
Self-Control – the Spirit smiles!
Here are some of the many scripture references that can be linked to the Fruit of the Holy Spirit:
‘Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes. Love does not come to an end.’
1 Corinthians 13 :4-7
‘With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’ Colossians 3: 16-17
‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.’ John 14:27
‘There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 4:6
‘You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience.’ Colossians 3:12
‘Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives. Then my favour will shine on you like the morning sun.’ Isaiah 58:7-8
‘I pray not only for these, but for those also who through their words will believe in me. May they all be one Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and 1 am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.’ John 17:20-21
‘I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together.’ Ephesians 4:1-2
‘Finally, fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise.’ Philippians 4:8