We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited.
The counsels of the Apostle Paul remain a clear guide for the building up of communities today, and we would do well to reflect on them and put them into practice.
How comforting is the image of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ, in which each member is united to the others and all complement one another! This idea will free us from thinking that everything depends exclusively on our own person, as if we had to cover all the areas of the spiritual life on our own. This is not so! Rather, we need to examine what gifts God has given us and ask ourselves how we can make them bear fruit for the building up of the Body of Christ. Where we can recognise our gifts – or where other brothers and sisters in the faith help us to discover them – there we are called to make our specific contribution to the kingdom of God.
If we always remain aware that the gifts of grace are a gift from God, that we owe them to Him and that it is our holy duty to make use of them, we will remember that it is necessary to use them in a spirit of humility, all the more so when they are extraordinary gifts.
The first gift that St Paul mentions in today’s reading is that of prophecy, but it is followed by a very important sentence. This gift must be exercised in accordance with faith.
This is still true today, because we cannot cultivate the charismatic gifts in an unrestrained way. For this we must examine ourselves. This is similar to what must be done with the mystical gifts that may appear in the lives of some of the faithful. These gifts also need to be examined in order to confirm that, at the very least, they do not contradict the faith and do not mislead. Even intended pastoral renewals in the Church require such an examination in order to verify that they are truly in accord with the doctrine and praxis of the Church.
If we see the Lord’s gifts as a gift of divine love for us and for the Body of Christ, we can understand why St Paul relates their exercise to some exhortations, such as: to give with simplicity, to preside with concern, to exercise mercy with joy, to teach by comforting and exhorting… We could sum up these indications of St Paul in these words of his: “Let love be genuine”.
Saint Paul wants the exercise of the gifts to be accompanied by the interior growth of the community, and that the gifts be exercised in the same spirit in which they were given by God.
Charismatic gifts are in no way an expression of the personal holiness of the one who exercises them. A person could, for example, have the gift of prophecy but still be vain and not even strive to overcome this defect. Another person may have the gift of teaching, but want to be right all the time. Another may be called to preside and yet be careless.
On the other hand, if the gifts are practised in the right spirit, they can be an encouragement on the path of holiness. For these gifts surpass those which God has bestowed on our human nature, since they come directly from the Spirit of God.
Today’s reading provides us with a wealth of advice, each of which would be worth reflecting upon. For today, however, we will content ourselves with observing the two foundations necessary for God’s gifts to shine in all their beauty and reach their full fruitfulness: these are love and humility.
In the last sentence of the text, Saint Paul exhorts us to practice humility: “Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited”.
We must be vigilant, even in the exercise of the gifts that God has given us. It is easy for certain gifts to attract people’s attention and make them admire the one who has them. Moreover, we ourselves can become complacent instead of serving with gratitude.
Let us not aspire to gifts for the wrong motives; nor seek high positions or the attention of others in order to be flattered. Rather, let us discover and use that which God, in His great love, has entrusted to us; and let us be careful to do so always in love and truth.
NOTE: Since today is the 7th day of the month, which we always dedicate in a special way to our Heavenly Father, we want to invite you to listen to the “3 minutes for Abba”, which is a small impulse that we publish daily in order to deepen the relationship of trust with God the Father. You can find them in the following links: