The Gift of Counsel

Novena to the Holy Spirit (Introduction+Nine Days)

Day Seven-Thursday of the 7th week of Easter

"When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time;" [Matt 10:19]

The 'gift of counsel' has a variety of meanings that are spoken of. First, it's the gift that assists and elevates the 'virtue of prudence'. Often it is referred to as the gift of 'right judgment'; as in choosing correctly or discernment God's Will. Finally, it's the gift of 'spiritual intuition'; meaning to respond as the Lord would have us do – quickly, in an unexpected or difficult situation. It's this latter meaning, as illustrated in the opening passage that I wish to dwell upon today.

In the very beginning I mentioned that to desire and receive these 'seven gifts' implies service to the Kingdom of God. Whether it is to witness or proclaim the Kingdom, this 'gift of counsel' is the gift of letting the Holy Spirit take control in a particular situation. Here's an example from scripture:

When they had made the prisoners [Peter and John] stand in their midst, they inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said [See full passage here - Acts 4:7-13] - when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus.

The apostolic prisoners relied on the Holy Spirit (they became 'filled with His Presence') to say what needed to be said in a bold fashion.

A more modern day and widely known example of this gift is seen in the witness of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the saint of Auschwitz. If you recall the story, Fr. Maximilian steps forth to take the place of a prisoner (one of ten) who was condemned to death as punishment for an escape attempt of another.

The ten were selected, including Franciszek Gajowniczek, imprisoned for helping the Polish Resistance. He couldn't help a cry of anguish. "My poor wife!" he sobbed. "My poor children! What will they do?" When he uttered this cry of dismay, Maximilian stepped silently forward, took off his cap, and stood before the commandant and said, "I am a Catholic priest. Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children." [Read a brief but beautiful account here]

Here the humble friar, without forethought, allows the Holy Spirit to take control of the situation. It's a most extreme and dramatic example for sure, but it shows how the Holy Spirit will intercede when we are powerless and provide us with exactly what is needed right on the spot.

If we contemplate this 'gift' in a more mundane fashion we can see opportunities that pass in our lives where this gift is very useful. Perhaps it's that ability when caught off guard to say exactly the right thing in order to elevate a bad situation with grace. Or maybe it's the occasion of encountering someone with spiritual needs or a grudge, and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our response.

The cultivation of this gift is not in filling ourselves with memorized responses, as in getting ready for a game of 'Spiritual Jeopardy'. Rather the advanced preparation is in emptying ourselves and aligning our hearts to God. It's in fostering the desire for God's Will to be done in every circumstance, and creating the awareness that the Holy Spirit genuinely desires to 'breathe forth' through us, if we will only give him the latitude. It means among other things, removing bitterness, hatred, cynicism, and other offensive behaviors that often jump to the fore and abort the gift of counsel before it can emerge. To pray for this gift will necessarily lead to a rethinking of our attitudes on 'confrontation', 'insistence on being right' and 'defending ourselves'.

Reflection questions: What behaviors must I change in order to allow the Holy Spirit to act more freely through me? Examine some situations in the past where you might have interfered with the Holy Spirit's grace in reaching others in need. Can you recall what specific action or behavior blocked this 'gift'?

Come Holy Spirit; fill the hearts of your faithful people. Enkindle in us the fire of your divine love.

1 comment:

Ashley said...

It is amazing how God answers this prayer. I hate confrontation. If given the choice, I would never confront anyone over anything. And yet, today I have an appointment to deliver a message from God to another servant. I don't know what I will say, but for the first time in my life, I have confidence that the Holy Spirit will be there, and the message will be received.