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Come back to the roots:

The Richness of Diversity

by Jean Pliya



1 Unity and diversity in the love of Christ

When man recognises the one and only God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, through faith, he opens himself to the love which unites the Father to the Son and to the Spirit which communicates the Love of God, the source of life in Christ and of fraternal love (Jn 15, 9 – Rm 5, 5).

This union with the unique God makes him His witness in the world and a collaborator in his design.

So that His disciples might become His witnesses, Jesus sent them the Holy Spirit, the first gift given to believers (1 Cor 12, 7). Every Christian must accomplish a specific function in the Church. The diversity and complementarity of gifts is desired by God in order to create a greater richness in the communion with Christ. Jesus gave us His mother, nourished us with the bread of His body and associated us with His fullness Indeed, from His fullness we have all of us received one gift replacing another (Jn 1, 16).

2 The multiplicity and diversity of gifts

In the building up of the Body of Christ, the Holy Spirit provides many varied gifts. All believers receive the grace essential for holiness and eternal life through the sacraments of Christian initiation: baptism, confirmation, the eucharist, and also notably through the three theological virtues and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. But there are also the free gifts or charisms that the Spirit distributes, as He sees fit, to each member of the Body of Christ. In the first Christian Community, certain gifts were allowed to instituted ministries of apostleship, of prophecy, of healing, of evangelism, of pastoral leadership, of being a helper, of administration and of miracles (Ep. 4, 11-12). Many others besides were also evident in the experience of the Church at that time. We are therefore the stewards of a divine, unique and multiple grace that each one according to the grace received, should put at the service of others (1 P 4,10).

The charisms do not depend on our merit: they do not belong to us, neither do they prove our holiness. We must welcome them with humility and use them with loving submission, that is to say, with total confidence in, and acceptance of the cross. The gifts can be lost too. Saint Paul gives this advice Never pride yourself on being better than you really are, but think of yourself dispassionately, recognising that God has given to each one his measure of faith (Rm 12, 3) for, if the gifts are diverse, the unique fruit which we all look for is "Agape" love, (Ga 5, 22-23) the highest of all the gifts.

3 The source and finality of the charisms

The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the fulfillment of the promise of a universal outpouring announced by the prophet Joel 3, 1. We receive the fullness of this outpouring in the baptism of the Holy Spirit or in the sacrament of confirmation: it is reawakened through the prayer for an outpouring which concludes the 7 weeks of the Life in the Spirit Seminars. The grace opens the believer to the reception of the charismatic gifts. In the Acts of the Apostles, to be filled with the Holy Spirit was the decisive criterion for service in the community. The 7 first deacons were men of good reputation filled with the Spirit and with wisdom (Ac 6, 3).

The diversity of the gifts responds to the multiplicity of needs that the Body of Christ has. Saint Paul holds the charisms in high esteem. His only concern is to discern their authenticity. Do not extinguish the Spirit. Verify everything; hold onto what is good and protect yourself from all kinds of evil (1 Tm 5, 19-22). There was no complete list of charisms. The Spirit gave them according to needs in time and place: Let the preachers deliver sermons, the almsgivers give freely, the officials be diligent, and those who do works of mercy do them cheerfully. Do not let your love be a pertenence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other. Rm 12, 8-10; And to some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. Ep 4, 11-12 ; One may have the gift of preaching with sdom given him by the Spirit; another may have the gift of preaching instruction given him by the same Spirit; and another the gift of faith given by the same Spirit; another again the gift of healing, through this one Spirit; one, the power of miracles; another, prophecy; another the gift of recognising spirits; another the gift of tongues and another the ability to interpret them 1 Co 12, 8-10.

In Corinth, Paul notes three types of charismatic action:

- the charisms of inspiration: prophecy , speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues and discernment of spirits.

- the charisms of revelation: words of knowledge, of wisdom and of science.

- the charisms of power: gifts of healing, of miracles and of great faith.

No charism is without its use: they all allow service to the Body of Christ. The service of the Word seemed to have a certain preeminence among the Apostles (Ac 6,4) and in the Assembly, Saint Paul preferred prophecy to speaking in tongues (1 Co 14,1-5), even though the latter served to lift up the believer to praise the Lord and to intercede with power. The fullness of love was to be seen also in the help given to the poor, the humble and repetitive tasks of daily life.

The Blessed Taulère tells the story of a monk to whom Jesus appeared on the cross. While he was deep in contemplation of the Lord, the bell which was rung to indicate it was time for the feeding of the poor sounded. The monk hesitated a moment and then went off to his work. When he returned later Jesus, who was still there, said to him: If you had not left when the bell was rung, I would have left you.

 

4 Go back to the roots for greater effectiveness

The Second Vatican Council declared that today the Church needs the charisms that were in use in the Early Church because the Spirit of God governs the people through them and the lives of all Christians and the operation of the Church's institutions depends on them. The birth of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in 1967 was a gift from the Lord to revive the grace of our origins, a veritable chance for the Church and for the world according to Paul VI. Since this time, millions of Christians in the world have experienced the outpouring of the Spirit, a Renewal of faith, of prayer and of evangelisation, followed by signs of healing and of deliverance linked to the charisms, be they of an individual or of a prayer community where noone even recognises the charism of healing. The reality of the charisms is nothing exceptional today. As Christians who have been renewed in the Spirit use their authentic charisms, the diversity of gifts are enriching the Church in the service of the Apostolate.

5 The risks of diversity

In the first Christian community the multitude of believers had only one heart and one soul. The apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Ac 4, 32-33).

The power of witness was found in unity not in diversity.

So if diversity leads to the tearing apart of the Body of Christ and to schisms and heresies, if in the name of the Bible, through some revelation or a particular prophecy or through the power of a personal charism, we separate ourselves from the Catholic Church to create new churches and new prayer groups, albeit ones which speak with more life and more effect, the return to the roots will not bring the expected fruit. The diversity and excellence of the spiritual gifts cannot bring back the unity of the Body established under the authority of Peter.

Even if He multiplies diversity, the Holy Spirit is first of all a Spirit of Unity, for there is just one unique Church of Christ which subsists in the Catholic Church governed by Peter's successor and the bishops in communion with him.

To go back to the roots of God's Covenant with His people and to the gift of the Holy Spirit is to go back to Peter for the pillar and supporter of the truth is the Church of the living God (1Tm 3,15). May the Holy Spirit help us to safeguard the rich diversity of the charisms which have flowered anew since Vatican II. Let us keep watch and see that she does not compromise the faith, the unity and the love in Jesus, crucified, died, raised up and glorified.


Articles – November 2009