3 ways to “know thyself.” One of the first maxims of spiritual life.
As Christians, we believe that God has recreated – regenerated – us in Christ at our baptism. God’s own Spirit came to us and made us a dwelling place of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (a great book to read for building spiritual muscles) tells us that the grace we receive at baptism empowers us “to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1266).
For our spiritual fitness this month, try practicing this mediation. There are three points in the mediation that will hopefully help us to come to a greater awareness of our gifts as children of God. To meditate, find a quiet place where you can pray and just be with God. You will need at least 15 minutes of quiet, uninterrupted free time. Fight for it. God loves you and you love God. Do not allow yourself to think you are too busy. Give God time and God will give you eternity.
1. We are a dwelling place of God. God loves us so much that God wills to come and dwell within us as a temple. Think about the gift of your own being. Think about your senses of sight, touch, hearing, smelling, and tasting. God created us. Everything we have (or do not have) is a gift. God has created us for Himself and wants us to know His love. God is not just on the outside. God is within us!
Read one or more of the following Scripture passages: 1 Kings 8:9-13; Luke 1:35-55; 1 Corinthians 3:16; John 14:15-24.
2. We have been given gifts from the Holy Spirit who empowers us. It is often easier to know our weaknesses, vices, and foibles than our gifts.
During this part of the meditation, list either on paper or mentally the things others have said you do well. To discern the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we need the Body of Christ – we need the community that God has formed by the Holy Spirit. The gifts we have been given are for the Body, and so it is the Holy Spirit working in the Body that not only gives us gifts, but calls them forth.
An example of this is that I once had a teacher who told me I could sing. I never knew that before. Not only did he tell me I could sing, he practically made me sing in the choir. I was fearful, but did it. Later, I had a young mother at a parish tell me that I should make a CD of religious songs to help people meditate and be refreshed in spirit. I said no – I could not possibly do such a thing! It was beyond me. She kept at me though and put my name in a hat as a possible candidate for a financial gift that she wanted to make because she had just won some prize money. She had her little daughter draw names out of the hat. She drew mine. Just as she called to tell me this, I was reading a letter from a friend. In the middle of the letter, out of context, my friend wrote that I should make a CD to help people pray and praise God. I finished reading this sentence when I got the phone call from the young mother. I could not believe my ears! God was calling me to this and letting me know that I needed to use my gifts for Him, and not hide them.
To think about your gifts, read 1 Corinthians 12.
3. Our weaknesses are also gifts from God. This may be the hardest part of the mediation. Most people struggle with self-hatred. There is a part of ourselves that we do not like – maybe it is our looks; maybe it is some inability or ineptitude that we have. We fall down time and time again. We think, “If only I was stronger or if I could do this better, I would be more pleasing to God.”
I prayed once about an inability I had. “Dear God, take it away,” I prayed. Then I heard the Lord say, “see how your weakness draws you closer to me.” I realized that my weakness had a good effect – it often humiliated me, and so curbed my pride.
For this meditation, read St. Paul in his discussion of his own weakness in 2 Corinthians 11:16- 12:10. Paul says, “I will boast gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Finish the meditation by thanking God for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Pray that your gifts may increase. Pray for an increase in faith to use the gifts, hope for perseverance, and love. By doing so, our offering of self will imitate the self-offering of Jesus Christ whose greatest gift was given by His absolute poverty and weakness as He suffered and died on the cross for us.