Sunday, December 28, 2014

Nurturing the Spiritual Gifts of a Holy Family

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

During the season of Christmas we gather together to see our families and practice our traditions and faith together.  In the Gospel of Luke, we learn about the church practices in the early years of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  This scripture demonstrates how the presence of the Holy Spirit enacts each person’s God given spiritual gifts which are then illuminated and nurtured within the family and church community.

As was the custom of the day, Mary and Joseph bring Jesus as a child to be presented at the temple. We learn about Simeon, an elder in the church.  With the power of the Holy Spirit on Simeon, he gazed upon the sight of Jesus and described him to God and the community present as “your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”  

We also learn about Anna, one known in the church community as prophetess, who spoke to the church community “about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”

The scripture goes on to describe the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph returning to their hometown of Nazareth where “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”  We see evidence that Mary and Joseph nurtured the spiritual gift of wisdom in their child as was earlier shared in the temple by Simeon and Anna.

We've heard the phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child”.  This adage can be applied in our church communities in relation to spiritual gifts.  Spiritual gifts are given by God through new life in Baptism.  Parents bringing forth children for the Sacrament of Baptism are asked to be the first and best teachers in the ways of faith, godparents are asked to assist with this responsibility and together profess a communal faith affirmed by the community gathered.  It takes everyone in the faith community to nurture the spiritual gifts of each baptized child.

We all have the opportunity to help the children of our community grow in faith by identifying and nurturing their spiritual gifts.  Who today can we assist in the ways of faith?  Is it our own child or one of someone else? We need only to turn our heads and look around right where we are at to find a child and a holy family to nurture. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Receive the Gift of God: See the Light!

Christmas Mass During the Night

In the Christmas Gospel we hear "This will be a sign for you:  you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger"  (Luke 2:12)..  Pope Francis explains in his homily, "The “sign” is the humility of God taken to the extreme; it is the love with which, that night, he assumed our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations. The message that everyone was expecting, that everyone was searching for in the depths of their souls, was none other than the tenderness of God: God who looks upon us with eyes full of love, who accepts our poverty; God who is in love with our smallness.”

Continuing his reflection, "Our Christian response cannot be different from God’s response to our smallness.  Life must be met with goodness, with meekness.  When we realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us, we cannot help but open our hearts to him and beseech him:  “Lord, help me to be like you, give me the grace of tenderness in the difficult circumstances of life, give me the closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict.”

The gift of God is the greatest gift of all; offered and freely given to all who are open to receiving it. Pope Francis tells the world, “On this holy night, we contemplate the Nativity scene:  there “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:1).  People, who were unassuming, open to receiving the gift of God, were the ones who saw the light.”

We do not need to go far to observe the darkness of the world, through the communications we receive on our televisions, smart phones and computers.  They are the things that we say, "someone should do something about that."  However, we know through our spiritual gifts we can bring about change to the darkness.  The things we perceive as dark we have the ability to bring light to by receiving openly our spiritual gift from God and sharing it in our own part of the world.

God gives us each at least one spiritual gift, one that we can share in our smallness, in meekness, in tenderness and in order to bring light to our part of the world. If we all just use our one small spiritual gift, in meekness, tenderness, and working together, we can be the people who walking in darkness can bring light to the world.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Discerning Spiritual Gifts

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

In St. Paul's letter to the Thessalonians we hear a simple process for discerning our spiritual gifts.  He tells us to:

  1. Pray with out ceasing (to pray always)
  2. To not quench the spirit (to accept the gifts God gives us)
  3. To listen to the prophetic utterances (to listen in the silence for the Word of God in our lives)
  4. To test everything (experiment with our spiritual gifts)
  5. Retain what is good (continue to use the spiritual gifts that have been affirmed by others)
  6. Refrain from every kind of evil (to stay pure of heart so as to receive the goodness offered to us)

St. Paul wishes to encourage the community and us today through these words:

"May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it."

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Spiritual Gifts for Serving God

One need only look at John the Baptist to see the gift of evangelism and healing in action.  The Gospel of Mark tells the story of a man in the desert who is God's messenger, "proclaiming a baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins."  As each was baptized by John, they acknowledged their sins and were healed by a man who admits, "One mightier than I is coming after me."  John shares his gifts of evangelization and healing.

God gave John these spiritual gifts to be used for his service.  John uses his spiritual gifts not for his own gain, but for others; in service to God, to point the way to Jesus Christ.

Once we discover, discern and begin to use our spiritual gifts, we too can be a voice crying out to the world in words and in action, pointing the way to salvation in Jesus Christ.