"If somebody had told me I'd be Pope someday, I'd have studied harder."
- Pope John Paul I
When I found this humbling quote of Pope John Paul I, I thought of a marquee in front of a neighborhood church that once read, "God doesn't call the qualified; He qualifies the called." The Pope may have thought he was under-qualified by his own means, but God knew better. God gave the Pope all he needed to serve as the worldwide leader of our Church. He had spiritual gifts that were unlike those of anyone else, gifts that were perfect for his job in serving the Lord.
For popes and parishioners alike, the Bible tells us that we are each blessed with distinctive spiritual gifts. Our gifts, or talents, are different from our neighbor's, totally unique to us and poured out so that we may serve each other and, in so doing, show our love for God. These talents are not entrusted to us to bury in our backyards, or hoard, or selectively share with our friends.
Consider what Jesus tells us in the Parable of the Talents:
'Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.'
The faithful use of one's gifts will lead to greater responsibility, and faithful servants will share in our Father's joy. So what are the spiritual gifts that God has given to you to share?
For some, talents may be easy to identify. We all know people who are really good cooks, builders, speakers, caretakers, singers, artists, healers, etc. For the rest of us, identifying our spiritual talents may not be so easy. Some of our talents may have been forgotten, never realized, misdirected, or put on a shelf for use at a later, more convenient time.
Enter spiritual gifts on any online search engine and you will yield countless sites that will help you pinpoint your talents. Go to a book store and you will likewise find books that will navigate you through a process to discover your inner strengths. There are even workshops and conferences that will help you identify your talents in one weekend. Many of these tools are good and productive, but sometimes these tools may also be too time consuming, confusing, and self-indulgent. When we focus so much on ourselves, we often can lose perspective and become disappointed. In a culture where individual happiness and instant gratification are a primary objective, it is no wonder we become lost in trying to find ourselves, because, the truth is, we are nothing without God. "Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me." (John 15:4) To find ourselves, we need only look to God. To find our talents, we need only look to the Holy Spirit.
Before His crucifixion, Jesus assured his apostles that He will not leave them alone. "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always..." (John 14:16) This Advocate is the Holy Spirit. Jesus further assures us that the Holy Spirit will teach us everything and remind us of Jesus' teaching. With the Holy Spirit on our side, we need not worry too much about finding our strengths and talents. Instead, we can ask Him to show us what to do and how to do it. And our talents will surface in our work.
As long as we take the first step (which we'll explore in an upcoming article), the Holy Spirit will reveal to us where we are needed. And when we get there, He will help us do our jobs. We will surprise ourselves when we finish and realize that the only way we could have achieved something so meaningful is through the heavenly gifts given to us by God. And God will be happy when He sees that we have tried (even if we think we've failed) and He will smile upon us. And we will beam with the happiness that comes only from serving God, until God give us more responsibility. Then we will sigh, look up to God, and completely understand the words of Mother Teresa: "I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much." And then we will smile when we realize how very much He needs us and we will ask the Spirit to lead us as we try it all over again. And we will share in in our Master's joy.
Let us all ponder the magnificence of God and of His generosity in giving us each unique spiritual gifts. Let us think about what those gifts are, but let us not worry too much if we can't figure them out. Instead, let us invite the Holy Spirit to speak into our hearts what we may have forgotten, never realized, misdirected, or put on a shelf. Let us commit to God the use of our spiritual gifts so that we may accomplish great things for the glory of His name.
(c) 2011, Holy Angels Church.