Posted February 29, 2008
Gifts You Receive Are Not for You
In referring to the bee, the Bible says, “The bee is small among flying creatures, but what it produces is the best of sweet things” (Sirach 11:3). The inference is that good things can be produced from a relatively insignificant instrument. The Israelites depended on the ever-active “busy” bees not just for plant pollination, but also for honey as their only sweetener and as an antiseptic for wounds; the beeswax was used for their healing arts, and later for illumination when candles were invented. Yet the example of the bees’ labor and activity is not the main lesson to be learned from them, says a fifth century commentary by St. John Chrysostom. “The bee is honored not because she labors, but because she labors for others.”
St. Paul spells out the implications of this altruism for Christians in a startling “let-me-think-about-that” kind of metaphor. He writes: “Through love become slaves to one another” (Gal. 5:13). And he further echoes that counsel of altruistic zeal In Romans 12:6-11, in terms of using our God-given gifts:
We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry in ministering; the teacher in teaching; the exhorter in exhortation; the giver in generosity; the leader in diligence; the compassionate in cheerfulness. Let love be genuine… love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit.
Everyone has some gift (or several)—“gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will” (Heb. 2:4). Your gift may begin with a simple talent that the Lord wants to “supernaturalize” into a Spirit-breathed charism. Look into your soul and psyche, carefully and prayerfully, to discern which gift or gifts God has given you. Then, with a firm resolve, reinforced by God’s grace, decide how and when and where you can exercise your gift or gifts while inflamed with an incandescent desire for the welfare of others in truly Christlike love.
Fr. John H. Hampsch, C.M.F.