Psalms 72:1, 7-8, 12-13, 17
We have begun the beautiful season of Advent. Advent is the time of preparation, but our secular society has translated this for us into the busyness of shopping and parties, of spending money and making and eating food.
Growing up, my family never “did anything for Christmas” until December 20th. One of my sisters’ birthday is the 19th, and Mother made sure that nothing overshadowed her personal day. (In a large family your birthday is usually the only thing you could call your own!) As I grew older the commercialism of the ‘season’ repulsed me more than attracted me. With my own children we always made an ‘Advent Calendar’ which would focus us on a different daily theme such as one of the many saints of December, a family activity, or doing something for a neighbor or friend. As my children have grown older I have tried to help them and me to focus on a more internal preparation.
The daily Mass readings of this season offer rich sources of inspiration to meditate on. In today’s reading I would like to focus on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Did you see them? Isaiah lists them for us in the second verse: “a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord.” That is only six, you say, where is the seventh? In the next verse: “his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” That sounds the same, but really the gift is the DELIGHT in the Lord. That is the gift of piety. Piety creates in our hearts a childlike affection for God as our most loving Father.
But, you ask, if He is such a loving Father then why should we fear Him? Fear of the Lord is not the fear that arises from the thoughts of punishment, rather, it is a fear that fills us with sovereign respect, an awe, for God, that makes us not want to displease Him. Now with those two hard ones out of the way the others should be easy….
By the gift of Fortitude (strength in this translation) we are strengthened against natural fear, and supported to the end in the performance of our duty. Fortitude imparts to the will an impulse and energy which moves it to undertake without hesitancy the most arduous tasks, and to face dangers.
The gift of Knowledge enables the soul to evaluate created things at their true worth ---- in their relation to God. Guided by the gift of Knowledge we put first things first, and prize the friendship of God above all else.
The gift of Understanding helps us to grasp the meaning of the truths of our religion. By faith we know them, but by Understanding we learn to appreciate and relish them.
The gift of Counsel is supernatural common sense enabling us to judge promptly and rightly what must be done, especially in difficult circumstances.
Finally, the Spirit gives us Wisdom. It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies our hope, perfects our charity, and promotes our practice of virtue to the highest degree. Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts, and embraces all of the other gifts, just as charity embraces all the other virtues.
Isaiah lists these ‘gifts’ as characteristics of Immanuel, of God who is with us. We received the Holy Spirit when we were baptized and are further empowered by Him when we attend Mass and receive the sacraments. When we let Him work through us these same characteristics are ours! What wonderful gifts! What an awesome God! May your preparations for the celebration of His coming be blessed.
O Lord Jesus Christ Who, Before ascending into heaven
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