7 gifts that will blow you away

Snow by Leon Wilson [flickr]
Take a moment to reread the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts. It will strike you as a fearsome event:

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:2-4)

Even if Luke is speaking metaphorically, something mighty and powerful happened to make him describe the scene this way. The flaming force of the Holy Spirit is necessary at this point in the story both to shake the cowering disciples loose from their paralyzing fear of persecution and to give them the strength they will need to carry out the mission Jesus left them.

Although the confirmation ritual does not, on the surface, entail such drama as on the day of Pentecost, the candidates do receive mighty and powerful gifts to strengthen them for the mission. The rite lists seven gifts in particular that are bestowed by the Holy Spirit.

1. The secret to happiness

When Christians are given the gift of wisdom, they are given the wisdom of Christ. Christ’s wisdom was at odds with the wisdom of the world and often put him at risk. It is more than just being clever or intelligent. It is seeing things in the world for what they really are—creations of God for the purpose of glorifying God. The wise person sees that anything that does not glorify God is misplaced or misused.

2. The ultimate solution

To understand something is to “get it.” There are people in your life who “get you”—who understand deeply what you are all about. Those who are gifted with the gift of understanding “get” Jesus. Everything Jesus is about becomes clear to them. It is the kind of understanding that makes us able to think along the same lines and feel the same way about important issues as another person. But it goes deeper than that. Spiritual understanding is an understanding that is at the level of deep intimacy.

3. The perfect answer

To judge rightly is a weighty and difficult action. Too often, we prejudge or misjudge a situation or person. A rush to judgment can have serious consequences that many times cannot be undone. Those with the gift of right judgment remember how Christ judged. His judgments were always tempered with forgiveness and acceptance. He always judged a situation based on the real lives of the people involved and always with the goal of bringing them closer to God.

4. Spiritual armor

“Courage” comes from an Old French root that means “heart.” People with the gift of courage are people with heart. Christ had courage because of the great love in his heart for those who were unloved by the world. He was not courageous in some macho, blustering way, masking his fear with false bravado. He put himself in solidarity with those most threatened by society and in doing so put himself at risk. Those who have Christ-like courage today are those who are willing to risk ridicule, sanction, isolation, discomfort and perhaps physical safety for the sake of those who are living on the edges of society with little hope and few resources.

5. The master key

Much of my childhood formation consisted of my mother correcting me with a phrase something like, “I thought you knew better than that.” Sometimes I would think she was being unfair, especially if the misdeed in question had never come up before. How could I possibly know about something I’d never been told about or experienced? And yet, she was usually right. I did know better. Christians with the gift of knowledge know what Christ knows. They know what God wants and expects, and they know how to do it. It is a knowledge not learned in books but one learned through a relationship of love. When we love Christ and we love our brothers and sisters as Christ does, we will always know what to do.

6. X-ray, night-vision

To reverence something means to give it its due. Reverence is about giving honor and respect. With the wisdom and knowledge and heart of Christ, empowered by the illuminating gifts of the Spirit, Christians can see what and who in this world is to be reverenced. The ones Christ reverenced were those who could find no justice, no respect from those who held power in the world. Reverence is not a pose of quiet distance, as we might assume in an art museum or library. Reverence is a stance of intimate engagement with the causes and issues of the maltreated and abused little ones in the world—those who might be hidden from view. Christians with the gift of reverence are those who seek justice and honor in the manner of Christ.

7. A mysterious, life-changing potion

The opening phase in the United States’ military conflict with Iraq was titled the period of “shock and awe.” The point was to pummel the Iraqi military into submission through an obvious and overwhelming display of might. God does not want that kind of awestruck-ness from us. To “fear” the Lord is to be raptly focused on the miraculous wonder of God’s creation. It is the kind of wonder and awe we experience at seeing a newborn infant or a perfect flower. It is the awesomeness of the night sky, glittering with billions of pinpricks of light, each of which might be larger than our solar system. It is the dumbfounding, mind-boggling miracle of falling in love and being loved. It is a spirit of unbounded joy. Christians are always enraptured in the ecstasy of Christ because they are blessed with the gift of wonder and awe.

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We hope you enjoyed this brief look at the Rite of Confirmation. If you have never been confirmed in the Catholic Church and you would like to know more about the process, please contact a Catholic parish near you. If you need help finding a parish, e-mail me, Nick Wagner, and I’ll help you get started. (Please include your zip or postal code.)

If you would like to take an online class on some basic Catholic teachings, go to this page for more information.

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