I can't write a whole series of posts on gifts of the Holy Spirit without mentioning what we call charismatic gifts of the Spirit. If you read 1 Corinthians chapters 12‐14, you will hear St. Paul mention several of them ‐ gift of tongues, gift of prophecy, gift of interpretation, etc. These are distinctly different from what are referred to as the sanctifying gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are the seven that we have been talking about until now (Isaiah 11:2‐3).
The Church focuses on the sanctifying gifts during the sacrament of Confirmation ‐ they are more important than the charismatic gifts and form us as individuals in our journey to be more like Christ. Charismatic gifts, though still important, are meant to build up other people in the Church, and different ones are given to different people (1 Corinthians 12:4‐31).
Again, there is so much to be written on the Holy Spirit that I can't possibly do it justice in these posts, including information on the charismatic gifts specifically. However, instead of going into detailed explanations of each charismatic gift, I will talk about why these gifts are important and how they impact our lives.
Many times people have uncomfortable recollections of their experience with charismatic gifts. They have misconceived ideas about Protestant healing services who force handicapped people to try and walk, or prayer groups who speak in weird languages and talk about being "slain in the Spirit." This was actually the case for me for a while. (Perhaps I watched too much TV.) I went to a prayer meeting when I was younger and didn't quite know how to process what was happening. It turns out that I simply had an enormous amount of unanswered questions that I was too afraid to ask, and all the people there wanted to pray over me.
It wasn't their fault ‐ I was in middle school and too self‐conscious to say anything. I could tell something pretty amazing was happening, but it wasn't until later that I learned the biblical foundation of these gifts (1 Corinthians 12‐14) and how they actually operate in our lives. I was a skeptic who needed to be convinced, and through profound personal experiences, it worked.
A priest once described the Holy Spirit to me as the gas in your car. You can push your car (your faith) up the mountain, and you can certainly move forward doing this. However, adding gas (the Holy Spirit) will sure make things a lot easier! And so it is with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including the charismatic ones.
In my experience, I have found that a certain level of humility, surrender, and faith always allow the Holy Spirit to move in a greater way. By this I mean that the fruits of the Holy Spirit and prayer seem to be more evident and more powerful when we humbly surrender to God in faith and trust. And what these fruits look like can be very different depending on each person and situation.
Several years ago in college, I was going through the toughest year of my life. A combination of poor choices and the wrong crowd of friends got me to a place of deep emotional and spiritual pain. Some sisters of mine noticed I wasn't doing well, and they asked me if I would like them to pray over me. I kind of felt guilty saying no because I was clearly desperate, so I agreed. They gathered around me, and I felt weak and vulnerable. I was pretty sure some of them knew I was not on a good path.
Before beginning, one of them asked if I was comfortable with them praying in tongues. I had heard people pray in tongues before, so I said yes even though I didn't get it. They began praying, asking the Holy Spirit to fill me. I just sort of stood there with my teary eyes closed until they finished. A girl in front of me asked how I felt. I couldn't tell if they were looking for a particular answer, but I didn't have any. I just felt peaceful. Nothing crazy happened ‐ I was just filled with a sense of peace and my distress left me, and that's exactly what I needed.
The girls hugged me with their understanding, kind eyes and said they would continue to pray for me. Their act of faith and cooperation with the Spirit, combined with my personal trust and surrender, led to God giving His abiding peace in my heart for which I was very grateful.
I began to learn that night that God wants to pour His love and mercy upon us in exactly the way we need, and sometimes He uses others and the charismatic gifts to do so. Since then I have had many more experiences with the Holy Spirit working in my life, some of them much more powerful, but all of them just as fruitful. I have seen the Spirit work miracles in others right before me, as they were healed of sickness, injury, unforgiveness, and more. The book of Acts started to come alive as I read the stories and realized God still works miracles today!
Again, one of the keys to beginning or continuing your own journey with the Holy Spirit is surrender. The apostles surrendered despite their fear. I surrendered despite my shame and lack of understanding. Others have surrendered despite their physical disabilities.
So what's holding you back from a full life in surrender to the Spirit? Do you trust these kind of stories, or do you believe they were only meant for the apostles? Do you believe God has a specific plan for you that will bring wholeness and healing to your life?
Come Holy Spirit, enlighten my heart, that I may see the things that are of God.
Come Holy Spirit, into my mind that I may know the things that are of God.
Come Holy Spirit, into my soul, that I may belong only to God.
Sanctify all that I think, say, and do, that all may be for the glory of God.