We hear from St. Paul in today's Epistle about the wonderful gifts that are bestowed upon the Church by the Holy Ghost. We all know about the Seven Gifts - Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety, and Fear of the Lord - that are received principally through the Sacrament of Confirmation. There are also Spiritual Gifts, or Charisms, however, which are given to individuals not for their own use, but for the building up of the Church.
The gifts of utterance of wisdom and utterance of knowledge, for instance, are given to preachers and teachers for the benefit of those who hear them, and the gift of healing, obviously, for the benefit of the sick. We have numerous examples of the use of the Spiritual Gifts from the lives of the saints.
The Spiritual Gifts are always with the Church, since there is never a time when the Church does not need them. In the beginning they were needed for the establishment of the infant Church. St. Peter, preaching on the first Pentecost, was filled with the gift of inspired preaching, and thousands were baptized on that first day. Later, even his shadow falling upon the sick when he was passing by was enough to heal them. St. Paul, preaching by the power of the Spirit throughout the Mediterranean area, established churches at many locations, and wrote letters that still nourish Christians today.
We need the Spiritual Gifts now, since the Church is undergoing an unprecedented persecution, as we understand from the Scriptures, and can tell from the signs of the times. Her teaching is challenged even by those who hold the highest offices, so that it takes heroic efforts on the part of the faithful to preserve the ancient faith handed down from the Apostles.
The governments of the world, under the control of hidden power mongers and influenced by the godless secular humanism of the UN, are passing laws that make criminals out of Christians, particularly Catholics. Right thinking Canadians, for instance, faced with the horrible consequences of the gay "marriage" bill, C-38, are now being primed by the media to accept state regulation of religions. A commentary by Bob Ferguson on CBC radio calls for the introduction of a code of moral practice for religions, specifically Catholicism. "They will never achieve unity," he said, "so why not try for compatibility? Can't religious leaders agree to adjust doctrine so all religions can operate within the code?… we cannot take rules from our holy books and apply them to the modern world without democratic debate and due regard for the law" (Ottawa, July 19, 2005, LifeSiteNews.com). We must ask whose laws are more important, God's Laws or man's laws.
One of the most important gifts is the distinguishing of spirits, or discernment, since we must test the spirits. Our Lord tells us that in the last times the false prophets will be able to work signs and wonders so as to deceive, if it were possible, even the elect. The devil is "the ape of God," that is, he tries to imitate the works of God so as to deceive the unwary. For instance, goddess-worshipping Christian (?) feminists of "herchurch" offer "services" with incense, bells and candles, and have come up with a "goddess rosary." They have concocted blasphemous parodies of the Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary: "Our mother who is within us," and "Hail Goddess, full of grace" (herchurch.org). Former Dominican Catholic priest Matthew Fox conducts a horrible parody of the Mass in which wiccan symbols and rituals are mixed with Catholic rites, and people gyrate and chant in a satanic dance.
Heresies abound. Today they even come from the top, so we are in the worst possible situation. According to Cardinal Ciappi, who was household theologian to John Paul II, "In the Third Secret [of Fatima] it is foretold, among other things, that the great apostasy in the Church will begin at the top" (quoted by Fr. Paul Kramer in The Devil's Final Battle, p. 33). But the heresies - Modernism, Universal Salvation, false ecumenism, the two covenants, the denial of Original Sin, and many more - must be recognized and pointed out by those who have discernment, so that the people can preserve their faith pure and untainted by the devil's doctrines. Indeed, if we did not know that the Church has the gift of indefectibility we would be tempted to despair of its eventual recovery.
The devil goes about "like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour." You can discern his presence by the horrors he leaves in his wake - hatred, anger, envy, jealousy, divisions, obsessive behavior, confusion - whereas the presence of the Holy Ghost can be discerned by the presence of love, peace, harmony, unity, and forgiveness.
The presence of the negative emotions of hatred, anger, resentment, and suchlike, is not sinful in itself unless we yield to them and allow them to influence our behavior, which then becomes irrational and destructive. Here especially is where the devil is able to take control of our lives to accomplish his evil purposes. We begin to accuse one another, to tear at one another, to create lack of trust and discord in the community. But what a wonderful victory you gain if you refuse to yield to such thoughts or to let them influence your attitude towards others.
"Strive for peace with all men," says St. Paul, "and for that holiness without which no man will see God. Take heed lest anyone be wanting in the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble and by it the many be defiled…" (Hebrews 12:14,15).
Love, as we know, is the greatest of all the gifts. "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God," says St. John. "And everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this has the love of God been shown in our case, that God has sent his only-begotten Son into the world that we may live through him. In this is the love, not that we have loved God, but that he has first loved us, and sent his Son a propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God has so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:7-11).
How to we find love like that? We ask for it, says Our Lord: "For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it shall be opened. But if one of you asks his father for a loaf, will he hand him a stone? Or for a fish, will he for a fish hand him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will he hand him a scorpion? Therefore, if you, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Good Spirit to those who ask Him!"(Luke 11:10-13).