«Father Peter John Cameron, O.P. The Knights of Columbus presents The Veritas Series “Proclaiming the Faith in the Third Millennium” The Gifts of ...»
At the center of the transformation is Mary, the Mother of God. It is Mary who takes notice that the wine has run out. It is Mary who informs her Son of the situation. And, especially, it is Mary who instructs those waiting on table: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the story is that the waiters actually listen to Mary.
They follow her counsel.
The divine Gift of Counsel is the way the Holy Spirit quickens and instructs our minds to do whatever contributes to our spiritual welfare.
- 37 Counsel is reasoned inquiry that leads us to deliberate action. But in the process, the Holy Spirit safeguards our freedom, our ability to reason things out for ourselves, and our willpower. Notice that the waiters don’t heed the Blessed Mother like either tyrannized or obsequious slaves.
Rather, they listen intently, intelligently: and they make a choice. We get the sense that there was reflection and sound deliberation at work in the minds and hearts of these servants who were surely impressed by the confidence, the prudence, and the soundness of this remarkable dinner guest—whom they, in turn, decided to obey.
Mary’s words of counsel lead the waiters to her Son, and the Gift of Counsel leads us, as well, to Jesus. In our searching for the Lord we need the very guidance of God which the Gift of Counsel supplies. For in this gift we are given God’s own advice to make us holy. Everyone who is a friend of God by grace is blessed with God’s counsel to advise us what we need to do in matters necessary for our salvation There is a risk involved in following the Spirit’s counsel. For Counsel might instruct us to do things that, in the eyes of the world, seem to make not much sense—like filling water jars and drawing out water for head waiters to taste! Therefore, a profound level of trust is required in order to benefit fully from the Gift of Counsel, the kind of trust that compelled professional waiters to listen to the counsel of a “perfect” stranger and to do whatever her Son told them. We are asked to do no less. And if we do, we can expect to be transformed from waiters into wedding guests who are the first to taste the choice wine that was saved for last.
To benefit from this Gift, we must surrender any stubborn selfreliance that would prevent us from taking God’s advice. Saint Augustine writes that even the angels consult God about things beneath them. It is a hallmark of the Church to rely on Counsel as a healthy, vital, life-giving dynamic of our life of faith.
The Holy Spirit’s Gift of Counsel pertains to everything leading to eternal life. Counsel quickens and instructs our minds to tend to the miraculous Jesus at a wedding feast; at the Feast of his Last Supper where he turns wine into his Blood; and to keep on tending him until we are
- 38 transformed with him at the Wedding Feast of heaven. The counsel and maternal mediation of Mary keeps us headed in Jesus’ direction, especially when she sees something empty or unsatisfied in ourselves that the love of her Son is guaranteed to transform.
“Who is my Mother?” — The Gift of Understanding When the crowd tells Jesus that his Mother and brothers are outside waiting to see him, Jesus responds: “Who are my mother and my brothers?
Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to me. My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and act upon it” (cf. Mark 3:33, 35, Luke 8:21). By his response, the Lord reveals a new understanding to his disciples, an Understanding that continues to be given to Christians by the Holy Spirit as his divine Gift.
Understanding implies a certain intimate knowing. To understand or to exercise intelligence is to “read within.” God understands that the natural light of our human understanding is of limited power and can go only so far. That is why he graces us with the supernatural light of the Gift of Understanding by which we penetrate to the supernatural happiness and communion with God for which we were made.
By his answer, Jesus enlightens the crowd of their need to reach beyond their own preset notions, conceptions, and prejudices to certain deeper truths that only the Holy Spirit can reveal. If we do so in love, then the Spirit’s Gift of Understanding gives us a certain excellence of knowledge that inwardly penetrates to the very things of God. At the same time, the Spirit transforms the way we regard and assess ourselves. The divine Gift of Understanding illumines us to see how Christ reveals us to ourselves. We could not even understand ourselves correctly without the grace of his Understanding.
The special value of the Gift of Understanding lies in the way it considers eternal and necessary truths as reliable rules for human conduct.
The Gift of divine Understanding leads us to perform divinely directed human actions. That is why the true “mother” of God is one who devotedly does God’s will (cf. Matthew 12:50, Mark 3:35). In such a one,
- 39 understanding and action form an organic, integral, life-giving whole.
And as we do God’s will, the Holy Spirit enables us to see beyond the immediate implications of our actions and to apprehend the truth about our final end with God. Therefore, the purpose of the Gift of Understanding is to give us a sureness of faith regarding our identity before God and the way that we belong to him.
The Gift of Understanding works in concert with the Beatitude of purity of heart (cf. Matthew 5:8). For we cannot worthily receive the truth about God—or the truth about ourselves as brothers, sisters, and mother of Jesus—unless we are spiritually “clean.” Such cleanness is the result of the Gift of Understanding.
The Lord’s response to the crowd is in no way a slight or insult to the Blessed Mother. For Mary is one who ardently wants us to share in the intimate Understanding of the Holy Spirit. She deliberately comes to the crowd—and she comes into our life—so that as we are prompted to remind Jesus of Mary’s presence, the Lord in turn will be moved to bless us with that divine understanding by which we share in the blessedness of his Mother, the first to hear the Word of God who is Jesus and to act upon it.
The Passion, Pentecost, and the Gift of Wisdom “Near the cross of Jesus there stood his mother” (John 19:25). How could Mary endure to witness the agony of her Son? Wisdom empowered her to witness this Passion. For Mary’s Son is not just any Son; he is the Word—not just any word, but the Word breathing love. Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote that “the Son’s being sent is that sort of enlightening that bursts forth in love.” Even in the midst of his excruciating death, Jesus offers anyone who looks upon him with love a special knowledge and perception of himself. In his Passion—especially in the Eucharist—Jesus offers us a knowing that we can taste. This is Wisdom. This is the knowledge the Blessed Mother experiences on Calvary even as she shares in the agony of her Son.
The wise person is one who considers the ultimate cause of things and uses it to judge other things with certainty. The wise person’s
- 40 attention to the ultimate cause of things gives him or her a standard to set all things in order. The Spirit’s Gift of Wisdom enables us to judge and to set in order everything in our life according to God’s rules. Despite the suffering of the Passion, this Gift enabled the Blessed Mother to see beyond the anguish to the ultimate cause and the ultimate need for her Son to die for sinners. That experiential awareness equipped Mary to make the right judgment about what was happening on Golgotha. It gave her the confidence to regard the event according to God’s rules and to trust that, even in the chaos of crucifixion, divine providence was maintaining everything in right order.
The Gift of Wisdom judges all things according to divine truth.
Mary’s faith-filled wisdom leads her to regard the horrible tragedy of the Passion solely according to God’s truth. The same applies to us. Through the Gift of Wisdom, we rely confidently on divine truth to make sense of all the absurdity, the sorrow, the heartbreak, and the calamity in our life.
Even amidst catastrophe and disaster, Wisdom restores order and divine purpose to our life. It gives us confidence that every fractured piece of our life is made whole as it finds its rightful place in the merciful plan of God’s Providence. If we have the grace to accept God’s rules, God’s rules will reign in our pain.
Wisdom also is at work with the Apostles and the Blessed Mother in the Upper Room on Pentecost (cf. Acts 1:13–14). For it belongs to Wisdom first to contemplate divine realities, and then to direct human action according to divine reasons. Together they contemplate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit with all his Gifts. And by the divine Wisdom they share, they direct others through evangelization to follow the Way who is Jesus. They bring about peace by putting “first things first” in the tranquillity of order through the power of the Gift of Wisdom.
They lead others to embrace the Wisdom of divine reasoning, and thereby to enter into the state of being children of God. And Mary, the Mother of God’s Son, is also our Mother as Wisdom begets us as children of the Father. For, in his infinite wisdom and love, Jesus gives us Mary to be our Mother as his final gift to us from the Cross.
- 41 Sources St. Louis de Montfort. True Devotion to Mary.
St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa theologiae.
Thomas Aquinas: The Gifts of the Spirit: Selected Spiritual Writings. Selected by Benedict Ashley, O.P. Translated by Matthew Rzeczkowski, O.P.
New City Press, 1995.
Cessario, Romanus. Introduction to Moral Theology. Washington, DC:
Catholic University of America Press, 2001.
1 This translation is from the Vulgate, the ancient Latin version of the Holy Bible, and reflects the Septuagint (the even more ancient Greek version of the Old Testament). The Latin text reads, “(1) Et egredietur virga de radice Iesse et flos de radice eius ascendet (2) et requiescet super eum spiritus Domini spiritus sapientiae et intellectus spiritus consilii et fortitudinis spiritus scientiae et pietatis (3a) et replebit eum spiritus timoris Domini.” 2 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 363.
3 Roman Missal, Preface IV for Weekdays.
4 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1721.
5 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2781.
6 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 27.
7 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1937.
8 St. Catherine of Siena, Dial. I, 7. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1937.
9 In Latin, St. Thomas’s language, wisdom is sapientia and is derived from the verb sapere, which means both “to taste” and “to be wise.”
Father Peter John Cameron, O.P., is the founding editor-in-chief of Magnificat and the author of five books on spirituality. He teaches preaching at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC.