June 5, 2022
On this feast of Pentecost we consider, with St. Thomas Aquinas, how the Holy Spirit inspires us and helps us by His gifts, and how we can become more receptive to them. Thus He can transform our life.
This is the first in a series of nine homilies on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The following are the links to all the homilies in this series:
1st – The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
2nd – The Gift of Fear of the Lord
3rd – The Gift of Piety
4th – The Gift of Fortitude
5th – The Gift of Understanding
6th – The Gift of Counsel
7th – The Gift of Knowledge
8th – The Gift of Wisdom
9th – Searching for Wisdom
- We’re facing a lot of challenges and trials today. And in times like our own which are difficult and mysterious, we need ever more the help of the Holy Spirit.
- The gifts of the Holy Spirit are called sanctifying gifts, gifts which sanctify us.
- Other gifts from the Holy Spirit are gifts to help people such as miracles, healings, tongues, prophecy and so forth.
- The Holy Spirit’s gifts in action and inspiration help us to be decile to the Holy Spirit, to obey and respond. They help us live our virtues in a more supernatural way and perfect our intelligence and will.
- The gifts of faith, hope and charity are what unites us to God and permit us to have and exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
- The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that perfect the natural powers of our soul, that is our will and intelligence are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and the fear of the Lord.
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit come from the scripture, the prophet Isiah says, “The Lord will pour out on him a spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, a spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, a spirit of knowledge, and of piety, and he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord.”
St. Thomas says they are called gifts, not just because God gives them, but also because they make us responsive to God’s inspirations, like a Divine instinct. When a person is moved by this Divine instinct or the Holy Spirit, they don’t need to take counsel in human reason, because they’re following a much greater light. St. Thomas says, “the mind of man is not moved by the Holy Spirit unless it is some way united to Him, so those gifts, faith, hope and charity are what unites us to God, and permit us to have and exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
You don’t just get one gift, the gifts, all seven are always present together. Every person who is in a state of sanctifying grace, where the Holy Spirit is dwelling in them has the seven gifts.
“The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I’ve said to you. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” All that are led by the Spirit of God. How can we be led by the Spirit of God? We’re facing a lot of challenges today, a lot of trials. And in times like our own, which are difficult and mysterious, we need ever more the help of the Holy Spirit. I think that a great example, of course, is the Passion of Jesus, where it was a very hard time, and also a very mysterious time, that the devil was very active, but much deeper God Himself was acting, but in a way that His disciples didn’t understand, and so more than ever before, they needed to be led by the Holy Spirit. So how can we be led by the Holy Spirit? So, tradition teaches us that the Holy Spirit gives us His seven gifts, the seven gifts. These are not the only gifts of the Holy Spirit, but these are called sanctifying gifts, the gifts which sanctify us. There’s other types of gifts or spirit gives, like miracles, and healings, and tongues and prophecy and so forth, which are to help others. And there’s, for instance, the Holy Spirit’s ministry gives those often-called sign gifts. And there’s this ministry gifts that He gives a person whenever special ministry in the Church. But these are the traditional seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the sanctifying gifts. So, what are those gifts and how do they affect us? How can they help us? So, I want to today, follow St. Thomas Aquinas, who has a whole reflection on those gifts. And I’ll also be using an article by Father Peter John Cameron, a Dominican. I’m not a theologian so I need the Holy Spirit to help me as I get my way through this. So, you all can be also praying to the Holy Spirit that He helps you and he helps me in this. So where does this term, these seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, where does that come from? It’s from the prophet Isaiah. Here’s the passage, it says, “The Lord will pour out on him a spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, a spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, a spirit of knowledge, and of piety, and he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord.” So, it’s from that passage, that we get the traditional seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. And that’s according to the ancient Septuagint version of the Old Testament. But St. Thomas points out that in this passage, the Lord doesn’t use the term gift. He says, he uses the term, (what was the term he used?) a spirit, right, he says, a spirit. And St. Thomas says that that’s referring to divine inspiration, that all of these gifts are involved with divine inspiration. And he says, an inspiration refers to a movement from outside, from without. And so why do we need these gifts? Because there’s a lot of things for which the intelligence that the Lord has given us, the capabilities that are natural capabilities are sufficient. For instance, to drive a car, to learn how to drive a car and then find out how to drive to the mission like you did today. But there’s other things in which our natural abilities are not sufficient, especially when it involves supernatural realities. And we just had that passage from St. Paul, speaking of those being led by the Spirit. So, let’s look at an example of these gifts of the Holy Spirit. So, this is from the Gospel of Luke, from the infancy of Jesus. And it says, from the presentation, the temple, so Luke, his gospel is very attentive to the Holy Spirit. He’s of course the one we just read from today and the Acts of the Apostles about Pentecost, but his gospel also highlights the role of the Holy Spirit. So, here’s an example, he says “there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. And this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel. And the Holy Spirit was upon him.” So, he’s a man who is already open to the Holy Spirit. And then he says, “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord Christ.” So not only was he open to the Holy Spirit, but apparently had received a special revelation from the Holy Spirit. But and then it says, “and inspired by the Spirit, he came into the temple. And when the parents brought in the child, Jesus to do for him according to the custom, the law.” So, let’s look at what’s happening there. So, Simeon was a man open to the Holy Spirit, he loved the Lord. So, he had already the love, the divine love, charity in his heart for the Lord. And he also had faith. He believed in Lord and so he had all that the Lord had revealed in the Old Testament about the law, and the temple, and so forth. So, he believed all that and that helped guide him in his life. And he also had his own intelligence to help him know how to apply what he learned from the Old Testament, to help him learn how to apply that in his life. But none of that was sufficient for his love for the Lord and his faith and his reason, was not sufficient to let him know that this was the day that the Messiah was coming to the temple. And so, he needed a special grace of the Holy Spirit to move him, maybe he didn’t know why. But he just thought, I’ve got to go to the temple today. And not just to go to the temple, but to realize in that little baby, who that baby really was. So, he was moved by the Holy Spirit to go to the temple, and then the Holy Spirit revealed, inspired to him, who this baby was, and it says, “He took him up in his arms and bless God, saying, Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word,” and he goes on, to give a prophetic message. So, there we see the Holy Spirit’s gifts in action, inspiring, Simeon. And so that’s what is proper to the gifts, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. They help us to be docile to the Holy Spirit, to obey readily, and be responsive to the Holy Spirit. So, they help us to live our virtues in a more supernatural way. And they perfect our own natural powers of intelligence and our will. And so, St. Thomas says they’re called gifts, not just because God gives them, but also because they make us responsive to God’s inspirations. And he cites another passage from Isaiah, where it says, “The Lord has opened my ear, and I do not resist, I do not turn back.” So, the Lord has opened his ear, that is the Lord has given him the gift to be responsive, to be attentive, and obey what the Lord is saying. And St. Thomas Aquinas even cites, it’s funny, even cites Aristotle, the philosopher Aristotle, who was not a Christian. But he says, this is Aristotle, “those who are moved by divine instinct.” Saint Thomas says that the gifts give us, like a divine instinct. Like think of bees, you know, bees or other animals that are, they don’t know why they’re doing something, but they know that that’s what they have to do. It says, “you are moved by a divine instinct. For those who are moved by divine instinct, there is no need to take counsel according to human reason.” This is Aristotle, who’s one of the great philosophers of all time, “but only to follow their inner promptings since they are moved by a principle higher than human reason.” So again, this is St. Thomas, one of the greatest intelligences of human history, quoting Aristotle, another of the greatest intelligences but saying that when a person is moved by this divine instinct or the Holy Spirit, they don’t need to take counsel in human reason, because they’re following a much greater light. So, think of, as an example, think of a sailboat. And so, think of a sailboat without any sails. So that’s not a good, not a good situation. Maybe, it has some oars, or it can move with the oars, that doesn’t work very well. So that’s kind of us just using our human reason. And then say the Lord gives the person in the sailboat, gives them sails. And so now they have sails and so then then they can put up the sails. And if they put up the sails when there’s a wind, then the wind can carry them along. So, giving the sails, that’s like the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Lord gives us those gifts. But we have to decide if we’re going to use them or not, just like if you have the sails, then you still have to decide you’re going to put them up or not, we have to make that decision. And so, if you put up the sails, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to right away have the wind and it also depends on the wind to blow the sails. And so, the winds are the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit’s often blowing His inspirations, but a lot of people are like sailboats without any sails or sailboats that have sails, but they haven’t put them up. So, the Holy Spirit’s trying to inspire people, but they’re not being attentive to them. And so that those sails are like, again, like that’s the domestic institute, which would suggest that comparison. And so how do they do this? What’s the relationship between the gifts, and the virtues of faith, hope and love. And St. Thomas says, “the mind of man is not moved by the Holy Spirit unless it is some way united to him, even as the instrument is not moved by the craftsmen, unless there be some contact or other kind of union between them. For instance, that the craftsman has to take up the hammer, or the saw, to unite himself to that hammer or a saw to do something with it. There has to be a union between the person who’s acting and the instrument he’s using. And he says, so what is it that unites us to God? He says, “the primal union of man with God is by faith, hope and charity.” And so, these virtues are presupposed of the gifts as being their roots. So those gifts, faith, hope and charity are what unites us to God, and permit us to have and exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit. So now, take a couple more examples. This is from Father, Edward O’Connor, my uncle, in his book, “The Catholic Vision.” So, he’s pointing out that by the gifts of the Holy Spirit we are guided not by our own reason, but by the Holy Spirit. And he writes, “We don’t know the whole plan of God. And so, we’re often unable to discern what is truly in accord with it. But by obedience, this spirit, we can be led to act in accord with a plan that is hidden from us.” For instance, it’s hard to know what is God doing right now, in our world? It’s often very mysterious and very dark. What is God doing? And so, it goes beyond our human reason, so we often don’t understand. How can we cooperate with a plan that we don’t understand? By these gifts of the Holy Spirit. He gives the example of St. Paul going on a second missionary journey and he’s going to preach in Asia Minor. But then at one point, he says, “The Holy Spirit wouldn’t let us do that.” And then he has a vision, or rather a dream at night, where he has a man who says “come over into Achaia”, I think it was, which would be Greece. And so, the Holy Spirit’s guiding him by these different inspirations, where to go, how to follow God’s plan. And another example of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is what we were celebrating today, Pentecost. So, the apostles come out with a great boldness and courage to preach the gospel, and to give witness to Jesus. And that was a strength that they didn’t have by themselves with just a couple of months earlier, they had failed Jesus, that they weren’t that strong. But it was the Holy Spirit giving them a new strength of fortitude, which was not of them. And that’s why St. Paul says, “I will boast in my weakness so that the strength of God can be in me, a strength of fortitude,” which comes not from him, but by God. So, these gifts make us like Jesus, help us to live as Jesus. So, an instrument that can be more or less responsive. Say, let’s take a steering wheel, for example. You can have a steering wheel, which has a lot of resistance, which is very hard to turn, so it’s hard to use, or a steering wheel might have a lot of play in it. So, you turn it a little bit and doesn’t do anything, you have to turn it a whole lot, because it’s not very responsive. Or think of a piano, if you have an old piano with a lot of the keys are stuck. You might have a great pianist, but he can’t make much out of that piano because the piano is not very responsive. But man is a special type of instrument, because man has been given the gift of free will. And so, we can resist the Holy Spirit, we can ignore him, we can be indifferent, or we can be attentive and responsive. I think, for instance, of an apprentice, working with a craftsman, a master craftsman. If the apprentice can learn to be very attentive and responsive, so he’s learning and able to help a lot. Or think of a disciple with his teacher, who gradually becomes more attentive and responsive. So, what are these seven different gifts that Isaiah listed? St. Thomas goes through a careful analysis of those gifts. And I won’t try to do all that today. But just to give you some rough idea of the seven different gifts, because he says, they perfect the natural powers of our soul, that is our will and our intelligence. So, he says, for instance, our intelligence, our reason that we have a reason to do for what he calls practical reason or practical intelligence, to know what we should do. What are the acts we need to do? And you use that all the time, like, what should you do this morning. And so, for that, we need to know what the choices are, we need some understanding of the choices. And that’s the gift of counsel. And then we need to make it, be able to make the decision about those different choices. And that is the gift of knowledge. And then there’s also the intelligence, which is not looking what I have to do, but simply wanting to know the truth, what’s called the speculative knowledge. And for that, we need to understand what the different realities are, the gift of understanding, and then make a decision about them, the gift of wisdom. And we have our will. And he says we have our will, and what concerns our relationship with other persons, and that is perfected by the gift of piety. And then our will touch in ourselves about ourselves. And it’s that is the will, for things concerning ourselves, that is perfected by fortitude, against the fear of dangers, and against inordinate desire for pleasures. It’s the fear of the Lord, which helps us. And so, we’re going to be, God willing in the in the upcoming weeks, we’re going to come back to each one of those and look at each one more in detail. But so, the gifts are always present all together, you don’t just get one gift, the gifts, all seven are always present together. So, who has these gifts of the Holy Spirit? Every person who is in a state of sanctifying grace, has where that is the Holy Spirit dwelling in them has the seven gifts. We receive them first in Baptism, but again it depends on God to give us the inspirations. And we think of the example, again, of the sailboat, that the wind blowing the sailboat. But it also depends on us, whether we use them or not. Take again, the example of the sailboat, say you have those sails, but you don’t put them up. Or you just put them up a little bit. Or on the contrary, you extend them completely. So that’s like the difference, that we can be a little bit responsive or not at all, or very responsive. So, the saints are great examples of those who are led by the Holy Spirit, very responsive. And Father O’Conner writes the mediocre Christian, on the other hand, is largely insensitive to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is blowing, but we’re not paying any attention. He conducts his life mainly by the light of his own reason and his feelings. And maybe a little bit guided by his faith, but he’s not paying attention to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. So, he’s missing out on all these opportunities to be guided by a divine light and not just his own human understanding. So again, in these times that we’re living in difficult times, it’s so important that God has given us these gifts of the Holy Spirit to help guide us and help us in these times. And so how can we be taking advantage of these gifts? So, we heard Jesus in the Gospel saying that those who love Him will seek to keep His commandments, seek His will. So that’s the route, to be loving God and seeking His will, renouncing sin. And humility helps us recognize that we need help. We don’t have all the light, we don’t have all the strings. We need help. And trust helps us to realize that God wants to help us, and He can help us. So, it helps us to trust in the help of the Holy Spirit. And so, if we’re seeking His will, if we’re humble and believing in the Holy Spirit, trusting in Him, then He can be guiding us. And I know we’ve experienced that so many times. I mean, just in this little mission, that you’re at right now, just so many parts of how we came here, this whole story, even just the fact I’ve often spoken that story, but just the fact that how we were led to this place and how we were led to acquire this property. It’s a whole series of little signs and inspirations of the Holy Spirit. And so, as I said, I hope in the next coming weeks, to be taking time to look at each one of these gifts, and particularly each one of the seven gifts. “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” So, with our Blessed Mother, the mystical spouse of the Holy Spirit, let us pray for the gifts, the gift to be attentive and responsive to the Holy Spirit, so that He can be inspiring your life right now in these times. Amen.