Wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. The gifts of the Holy Spirit. I memorized them for Confirmation 40 or so years ago and they still roll off the tongue. (OK, they only really roll off the tongue smoothly so long as I say them in the order in which I memorized them, starting with “Wisdom.”)
I sometimese think of Pentecost as giving us an annual “booster shot” of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that were magnified in us when we received Confirmation. Of course, that is not completely accurate, since we are always blessed by the Spirit. So perhaps it is more accurate to say that Pentecost helps us to be more open to receipt of the gifts of the Spirit.
As I contemplate the list of gifts, the one that I seem in need of so often is the gift of fortitude. It is the gift of fortitude that gives us the strength to overcome difficulties and to endure pain and suffering.
Sometimes things seem so hard…too hard. Maybe it is that I’m having difficulty discerning God’s will in a given situation. Or obstacles arise that seem to frustrate my ability to do what I think I’m supposed to be doing. Or, I just feel like I’m not doing a very good job at a particular task. In such moments, I feel a temptation to give up. To say, it is just too hard. To want to throw in the towel and start over again. To ask for a “do-over.” The feelings are often magnified because when I look around, it doesn’t seem like other people are struggling as much as I am. They seem to be having such an easy time of things. (Of course, at some level I know that I have no idea how much others are or are not struggling, just as no one looking at me – except perhaps my spiritual director and one or two close friends – can tell when I am struggling. But in moments of weakness, that is not the level on which I am operating.)
What I realize is that what allows me to go on in those moments – whether or not I label it as such at the time – is precisely the gift of fortitude. It comes in that feeling that wells up inside in response to the frustration and temptation to give up. The feeling that allows me take a deep breath and say – you know, it is not really so tough…we can manage this together, Lord, …it is not really all that bad. The feeling that lets me slough off the frustration and temptation to give up. The feeling that strengthens me to go on.
So whether we think of Pentecost as giving us an annual booster shot of the gifts of the Spirit, or making us more open to receive the gifts of the Spirit or maybe just reminding us of the gifts that are always at our disposal, we are blessed. We are given the gifts we need to allow us to live the fullness of our lives as Christians.