Second Sunday of Advent
Gifts of the Spirit
The reading from the prophet Isaiah is a very hopeful description of the Messiah. Part of that description in verses 2–3 contains the traditional seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, and looking forward to his coming in glory, let us take a look at those gifts and see how we can use them.
Wisdom is first, but it is not simply a matter of tossing out proverbs and sayings. This wisdom is the gift of seeing God in creation. It means that we value the things of this world only as they help us to know and love God more. The second gift, understanding, follows from wisdom. As we appreciate God in creation, we understand what God expects of us in dealing with creation and other people. This gift helps us know how to act in a world that seems to ignore God.
Counsel follows from understanding as the gift of making correct judgments about how to act, how to follow those commands of God. For example, understanding can lead us to love others; counsel guides us to love them in appropriate ways.
Strength, or fortitude, is the gift that enables us to do those things inspired by understanding and counsel, even if they are difficult. John the Baptist displays this gift in the Gospel when he challenges the Pharisees. Fortitude gave him the courage to die for his faith.
Knowledge is similar to counsel (knowing how to act) in that we begin to see what God wants for us in this world. It includes an understanding of the scriptures and how God’s word applies to our lives. Knowledge leads us to deeper revelations of the truths of our faith. This can lead to the sixth gift, piety (seventh in Isaiah’s text—“delight in the Lord”). Piety is a willingness to worship and love God, a desire to be close to God in prayer. Piety leads us to rely totally on God and humbly ask God’s help.
The final gift, fear of the Lord, is more than just being afraid. It is the awe and wonder of recognizing how great God is, how much God loves us, and how much we want to stay close to God. And the desire to be close to God circles back to the wisdom with which we see God in creation.