September 16, 2014
Today’s reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Paul asks the rhetorical questions: “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” (v.29-30). The answer is “no,” and Paul is simply emphasizing that different people have different gifts.
On the other hand, the answer can be “yes.” We need to distinguish between the specific charismatic gifts enumerated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 and gifts in general that are of the same nature and purpose but which the Spirit, who blows freely, can bestow on God’s people as the need arises. For a particular person, the former are regular, while the latter are occasional. The former are specialized gifts, while the latter are general gifts. In both cases, the gifts are given to people to use for building up the body and enabling the community to do its mission.
Let me expound on this difference.
Apostles are “those sent.” The specific gift of apostleship was given to the Twelve, to Paul, and to other individuals. On the other hand, since an apostle is one who is sent, and since all Christians are supposed to participate in the mission of proclaiming the gospel, of sharing Christ, then all are apostles.
Prophets are those designated by God to speak in His name. This specific gift was given to the known prophets of the Old Testament, as well as prophets of modern times. But all Christians are supposed to participate in the mission of Jesus, that is, to be priest, prophet and king. Thus all are also prophets. An illustration of this in a community assembly is that the specifically-gifted prophet might consistently speak a prophetic word, while everyone else might speak every now and then, as they are led by the Spirit.
The gift of healing is given specifically to certain persons, and they come to be known as healers, as they regularly go about their ministry of healing. But everyone can and should pray for healing for others, and God can use them to actually bring miraculous healing.
It is the same with being teachers, doing mighty deeds, speaking in tongues, having the gift of interpretation, and so on.
The New Evangelization necessitates that we re-discover the methodology of Pentecost. This includes the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 (and other passages), which are crucial to the work of evangelization as intended by the Holy Spirit. These gifts have been largely forgotten, ignored, even denigrated. The Church has paid the price for this lapse, in seeing her evangelization generally stalled throughout the world, and even the body itself greatly weakened.
Now we are called to the New Evangelization. Back to basics.
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God bless you all.
“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” (Phil 1:21)
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