There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There
are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone
it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is
given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith
by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to
another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation
of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
(1 Corinthians 12:4-11)
In this Bible passage, the apostle Paul tells us about the diversity of spiritual
gifts the Christians in Corinth had received. When reading Paul’s letters one should always remember that they were
written to a specific group and for concrete reasons. The main reasons why Paul was writing to the Corinthians were moral
problems and divisions within their community.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul does not ignore the imperfections
of the community that he founded: he reproaches them for being divided, each subgroup thinking themselves and their leader
superior to the others. At the same time he calls them his beloved children, and begins the letter by praising them “because
of the grace of God that has been given [them] in Christ Jesus” (1:4).
How can Paul praise a community where so
many things have gone wrong? How can he consider them all the same the body of Christ, God’s Church? It is because Paul,
in spite of all their imperfections, is certain of the presence of the Holy Spirit in their midst. We normally recognize the
Spirit’s presence in everything that is good and beautiful, but do we see enough how he is at work in imperfect situations?
In our lives too, in all their messiness and ambiguity, the Spirit is at work.
It seems like a beautiful idea: God distributing
gifts to each one individually. But it also means that we have to learn to live with the fact that we have not received the
totality of gifts and that these gifts are not “on demand.” God has bestowed upon us certain gifts whereas others
have received gifts that we lack. Instead of being frustrated by this, we should see it as an encouragement to live in communion.
wants the Christians of Corinth to reflect on why they received these gifts. The gifts we receive are not merely for our personal
blossoming but are meant to be put together with the gifts of others at the service of Christ and his Church. Yes, despite
my best efforts, I lack many gifts, but I am surrounded by other believers; I don’t have to posses all of them myself.
The important thing is that the Church as a whole holds the fullness of the grace of God’s Spirit.
And this means
two things: first of all that we should “come together to allow the dynamism of the Gospel to be revealed,” as
Brother Alois phrases it in the third proposal for 2017. For it is together and only together that the gifts of the Holy Spirit
receive their full meaning.
And secondly, when we come together in the Church we have to live our unity in diversity.
Just because someone does not practice his faith exactly like me does not necessarily mean he is wrong. We have to be attentive
to those who see things differently than the majority, since often in the history of the Church it was a minority, sometimes
only very few people, who understood where the Spirit was leading the Church. In fact the Church is what it is when it knows
how to listen to its diversity.
There is nothing relativistic in this approach. It does not mean that the Church is
a place where, in the name of diversity, each one is entitled to have his own truth. Paul insists very much on the fact that
all the believers in Corinth have the same Spirit, the same Lord and the same God. Letting him bring us together in order
to discover the variety of his gifts, protecting this variety in our own church and recognizing the gifts of the Holy Spirit
in the Churches of others are attitudes that will bring us closer to a visible communion of all those who love Christ.
Do I sometimes wish that I had the gifts of others? Am I fully aware of my own gifts and talents? What can I do to see
them not as reasons for self-conceit but as a way of serving others?
How can our communities be places of unity in diversity, where the gifts of all are fostered? Is it possible to remain
together while recognizing and valuing different approaches?