We have to become "docile" to the work of the Spirit, to make ourselves habitually open to the Spirit's influence.

How did the church arrive at the idea that we receive seven divine gifts at Confirmation? We memorized them once—wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord—in case the bishop quizzed us before the sacrament. While Acts of the Apostles and Saint Paul's writings say a lot about the Holy Spirit's activity, bestowing these seven particular gifts never comes up.

The prophet Isaiah lists the gifts as we know them (see Isa 11:1-2). The Hebrew translation of this passage lists only six; the seventh, piety, derives from the Septuagint translation from which the Catholic Bible emerges. Isaiah foretells that these special characteristics will be revealed in the one who comes "from the stump of Jesse"—that is, the promised king of David's lineage who will come to rescue the people. This future king is often identified as the Messiah (Hebrew for "anointed one").

When Jesus arrives, born of David's line eight centuries after the time of Isaiah, he's recognized as the possessor of such divine gifts and therefore the fulfillment of the prophecy. He's acknowledged as the Christ (Greek for "anointed one"). In turn, Jesus promises to send the same Spirit that dwells in him to his disciples. In the upper room at Pentecost, his promise is fulfilled. So when you and I are anointed with the oil of chrism at Confirmation, it follows that we "anointed ones" are recipients of these divine gifts.

Perhaps you don't feel wise or courageous. I'm not the best specimen of piety either. Manifesting these gifts isn't something we do automatically after we're confirmed, the way superheroes suddenly manifest their superpowers. As theologians say, we have to become "docile" to the work of the Spirit, to make ourselves habitually open to the Spirit's influence. That means putting the ego aside—something we don't do without a great deal of practice.

At the same time, we understand that we are granted genuine spiritual superpowers known as charisms. These special favors bestowed by the Spirit are provided for the benefit of the church. Saint Paul recites a litany of such charisms including wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, mighty deeds, prophecy, discernment, and the gift of tongues. Paul later lists teaching, service, and administration as additional spiritual gifts. These aren't meant to override Isaiah's list of seven. On the contrary, they suggest that the Holy Spirit is ready to provide whatever gifts the church requires.

Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-3; Psalm 143:10; John 14:15-17, 25-26; 16:7-15; 20:22-23; Acts of the Apostles 2:1-4; Romans 8:14-17; 1 Corinthians 12:4-31

Books: Fire of Love: Encountering the Holy Spirit, by Donald Goergen, OP (Paulist Press, 2006)

The Holy Spirit: Setting the World on Fire, edited Richard Lennan and Nancy Pineda-Madrid (Paulist Press, 2017)

Reprinted with permission from PrepareTheWord.com. ©TrueQuest Communications.

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