Today our reading from Isaiah lists the traditional seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah lists them because he prophesies that Jesus, the green shoot from the stump of Jesse, would possess these gifts. However these gifts can be ours if we will have them. So what are they?
The first gift is wisdom. Wisdom is knowing the best action in any situation. Wisdom helps us make decisions especially in difficult cases. Like the other gifts, there is an earthly form of wisdom which comes with experience, but Isaiah is speaking of something greater, a divine gift unrelated to experience. Even a child can display great wisdom through the Holy Spirit.
The second gift is understanding. Understanding means seeing the truth even when it is hidden. It can be the truth of a difficult Scripture passage. It can be the truth of the dignity of another person.
The third gift is counsel. This gift allows a person to give good advice. Giving really good advice is very difficult, almost impossible. Many people think that they can give good advice, but they cannot. Counsel requires both wisdom and understanding, and also knowing exactly what words will convey the advice in the most helpful fashion.
The fourth gift is fortitude. Fortitude is the willingness to die in battle. It may be an actual battle, or it may be a battle against our own pride. We want to defend ourselves, but sometimes we must be willing to die.
The fifth gift is knowledge. The gift of knowledge allows us to learn about the creation of the world by God. Through this gift we see the creator in the created things.
The sixth gift is the fear of the Lord. Also called piety, it is the feeling we get when in the presence of the holy. It is what keeps us from chattering in church. When I was a child, I would never have walked into the sanctuary. This fear is a wonderful gift. Life without piety is boring; nothing is special.
The seventh gift is once again the fear of the Lord, but this time we consider it differently. It is the fear of sinning. For an immature person it is the fear of hell. For a more mature person, it is the fear of disappointing our Father. For a very mature person, it is the fear of being separated from God.
These are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. May God give them to his Church in abundance.