Today we honour the memory of Saint John Chrysostom, one of the most influential figures of the Church during the 4th century. As Archbishop of Constantinople he worked to reform the Church and came into conflict with the imperial court, which hounded him into exile on several occasions. Because of his eloquent sermons and writings to explain the faith and to encourage the practice of the Christian Life he is honoured as a Doctor of the Church. He died in exile on 14th September in 407.
I would dare to say that we all enjoy receiving presents. It’s even better when the gift that’s given is carefully picked to suit our personality. We especially remember those gifts that we know the giver put some real time, thought, and effort into choosing.
Those are just the sort of gifts that St. Paul is writing about to the Corinthians. These gifts are valuable because God himself has picked them out for us. He had special talents in mind for us before we were even born. Some are blessed with leadership, teaching, evangelistic, or preaching gifts. Others he has inclined to more behind the scenes work such as hospitality, discernment, maintenance or administration. Whatever our gifts are, we can accept them wholeheartedly, knowing that they come from a loving Father who has great plans for how we can use them.
Besides all that, these gifts are from heaven. They are supernatural charisms, and they have the potential of bringing a little bit of heaven down to earth. As we learn to exercise our gifts, we can change the world around us—bringing God’s light and truth into places of darkness and confusion. When endowed with God’s grace, even something as ordinary as the ability to prepare a delicious meal can be a powerful instrument of God’s love and presence.
St. Paul makes it clear that God has given us these gifts with an important goal in mind. He wants us to use them to build up his Church, and especially our own small part of it. He wants us to use them to bring heaven down to earth so that other people can be touched and changed by the Gospel message. These gifts are meant to strengthen us. They are also meant to be given away: given away to young people in religious-education programs who need good, solid formation, given away to the poor who have so little and who feel rejected, given away to the elderly who are craving friendship and compassion, given away to the next-door neighbour who is longing to hear the good news of the Gospel.
We are all members of one body, and we must use our gifts and talents to build each other up.