Gifts from God

lent2016

Reading: 1 Corinthians 12

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

 

Even before he was twenty, Augustine discovered that other scholars could offer him little more than what he inferred from his own reading. Perhaps at the time he was not yet aware of the special talents that had been given to him. He later reflected on that experience:

Augustine
"My swift intelligence and keen wits were your gift; you know it, O Lord my God. Yet for this gift I offered you no sacrifice. It therefore worked not to my advantage but rather to my harm, because I took care that this excellent part of my being was under my own control, and I did not guard my strength by approaching you, but left you and set out for a distant land to squander it there on the quest for gratifications. What profit was this good gift to me when I failed to use it well? It only made me less able to appreciate how very difficult these liberal arts were for even the most zealous and clever to understand. I found this out only when I tried to expound them to my pupils, among whom only the brightest could follow my explanation."

How do we handle the talents that have been given to us and others to develop? On one hand, we all sometimes feel a slight sting of jealousy when we see others’ accomplishments and the greatness of their skills and successes. We might not even be as jealous of the results as we are of the ease with which they were achieved. We forget that from the spiritual standpoint daily effort is more important than an occasional victory.

But there is another danger in this, perhaps even graver than jealousy: the temptation to consider the talents ours by right, as if they were the products of our own will. Augustine gave in to this impulse and for many years regarded his extraordinary abilities as self-evident and took them for granted. Only when he started working as a teacher did he notice significant differ­ences in the abilities of his pupils. Certain seemingly straightforward questions proved difficult even for the brightest of them. It took a long time for Augustine to see the grace of God Almighty in the talents with which he was blessed.

“Lord, the beautiful things in life are all your gifts. Thank you, God, for them. Amen"