In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, Saint Paul writes, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as He wishes.”
Purpose of the Spiritual Gifts
These gifts—described by many as “Charisms or Charismatic gifts”—are given by the Holy Spirit to individuals for service or ministry to edify or build up, to encourage and to comfort the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:3-5). The word “gift” in Greek is “charismata,” meaning “favor freely given to whomever the Lord chooses.” It is not something that the recipient has earned or deserved. In the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” 799, the Church asserts, “Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men and to the needs of the world.” The gifts of the Spirit manifest the presence and power of God in our midst. Jesus says in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
The Greek word for this kind of power is “dunamis,” meaning “dynamite.” God’s power is surely more potent than all powers in this world combined because God’s power is supernatural and unequalled in nature. When the Lord unleashes His power, it is always to accomplish His purpose and to establish His Kingdom. I believe that the Holy Spirit is looking for people whom He can count on to further God’s kingdom and to achieve His purposes for His honor and glory. The Documents of Vatican Council II under the Decree of the Apostolate of Lay People state, “From the reception of these charisms, even the most ordinary ones, there arises of each of the faithful the right and the duty of exercising them in the Church and in the world for the good of men and the development of the Church, of exercising them in the freedom of the Holy Spirit who ‘breathes where He wills’.”
In his homily at the closing Mass of the World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, in July 2008, Pope Benedict XVI stated, “But what is this power of the Holy Spirit? It is the power of God’s life! It is the power of the same Spirit who hovered over the waters at the dawn of creation, and who, in the fullness of time, raised Jesus from the dead. It is a power which points us, and our world, toward the coming of the Kingdom of God.”
Let me focus more specifically on the gift of prophecy. Saint Paul says “Pursue love, but strive eagerly for the spiritual gifts, above all that you may prophesy.” 1 Corinthians 14:1. In Acts 2:17-18, we read about Peter standing up with the 11 and reiterating what the prophet Joel had prophesied, “It will come to pass in the last days, God says, that I will pour out a portion of my Spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my Spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy,” To prophesy means to speak or sing a message from God under the unction or direction of the Holy Spirit. Simply put, to prophesy is to be a spokesperson for God. However, not all who prophesy are prophets but all prophets must prophesy. Some, who are called into the prophetic office by the Lord, are continually using the gift of prophecy and other gifts of revelation such as the word of wisdom, word of knowledge and discernment of spirits in their lives and ministries.
Prophecy may forth-tell or foretell the truths from God. A prophecy that forth-tells means a message that does not necessarily pertain to the things in the future. An example of this is when Jesus, from the Cross, told the “good thief.” “Amen, amen, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise,” Luke 23:43. On the other hand, foretelling relates to the things or circumstances that will come to pass in the future. An illustration of this is found in Acts 11:28, “One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine all over the world, and it happened under Cladius Caesar.”
I was once a recipient of this type of prophecy that foretells about the future. After my wife, Chita, and I experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit back on November 11, 1984, we started to pray together. On December 8, 1984, while we were praying, my wife came up to me and started prophesying, “My son, do not be afraid. My name is Jesus and I’m talking to you through your wife. I’m going to use you to heal millions in My name. Believe my son that this will happen and be humble always. You will preach the gospel in My name. Many will come to ask for healing. Heal them in My name because healing is good news. You will travel far and wide. You may find this hard to believe, but remember, for Me nothing is impossible.”
Soon after, I asked her what had prompted her to say those words to me. She said, “I only repeated what I heard the Lord was saying in my ‘inner being’. To date, I have been to 39 countries, preaching and proclaiming the gospel and healing the sick in the name of Jesus, in spite of my many limitations. The Lord had opened the doors for me to start traveling and ministering internationally in the year 1991, exactly seven years after I received the prophecy about the works that the Lord wanted me to do for Him and for His Kingdom.
A prophecy may also come forth through someone who speaks in “tongues.” In 1 Corinthians 14:5, Saint Paul says, “Now, I should like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be built up. When someone speaks in tongues in a prayer meeting, for instance, the gift of interpretation of tongues should also be operative to make the message in tongues understandable to the hearers. The person who is speaking in tongues may give the interpretation under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit or somebody else in the congregation may be prompted to do it. It should be noted that interpretation is not necessarily a translation of the message delivered through speaking in tongues.
How to Hear the Voice of God
The Lord wants to talk to us and He is always speaking to us! In the book of Genesis, we read these words many times, “Then God said.” In John 10:27, Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice; I know them and they follow Me.” Jesus also says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, many prophets longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it” (Matthew 13:17).
Our God wants to have fellowship with us. Jesus died on the cross for us not only to set us free from the bondage of sin and death, but also to bring us to a personal relationship and fellowship with Him. The Lord is more delighted to speak to us than we are to hear from Him. Most of the time, the Lord communicates with us through a still small voice from within our spirit. A person may perceive it as a sudden impression or a “sense” of something that God is saying or a passing thought. If we open ourselves, our hearts, our senses and our minds to God and be obedient to Him, we will surely hear His voice. The Lord can give us an impression or a vision or a thought. He can also communicate with us through dreams, through scriptures, through our circumstances, through other people and even through His audible voice, which is very rare indeed. He is sovereign and He has no limitations.
Not long ago, I had the opportunity to conduct a Parish Mission in Sarasota, Florida. While giving a talk on “Repentance and Forgiveness,” the Lord spoke into my heart that there was a person in the congregation who tried to commit suicide and that the Lord was setting him free from the feelings of guilt and self condemnation. When I received the words, there was a deep conviction in my heart that they came from the Lord. I announced what the Lord had said and a man named John came up to the altar, with tears in his eyes, to acknowledge everything that I said. I sensed that John tried to do it not only once but twice, and he admitted it when I asked him about it. That day, he received an emotional and spiritual healing and an assurance that the Lord, in His mercy and love, had not condemned but rather had forgiven him. Recently, John told me that his life had been changing rapidly for the better since then because he had grown closer to the Lord.
Discerning of Spirits
There are four sources of voices that we hear in the spiritual realm—namely, the Holy Spirit, the human spirit, the evil spirits and holy angels. In 1 John 4:1, the word of God says, “Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone into the world.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21, Saint Paul says, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good.” Both the “giver” of the prophecy and the “receiver” or the hearer should discern the words. A very careful and thorough discernment must be undertaken, especially in cases of directive prophecies, to make sure that they are from God and not from false prophets. To discern rightly and accurately we need the wisdom and assistance of the Holy Spirit who “guides us to all truths.”
Following are some of the practical guidelines in judging or discerning a prophecy:
◗ It must edify or build up and give comfort. If a prophecy is negative and condemnatory, it is a sure sign that it is not from God.
◗ It must bear good fruit. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits, you will know them” (Matthew 7:19-20).
◗ It must be scriptural. Jesus says, “My words, they are Spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).
◗ It must conform to the teachings of the magisterium of the Catholic Church. The magisterium is the teaching authority of the Church.
◗ It must produce peace. Saint Paul says, “God is not the author of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33).
◗ It must ultimately bring glory and honor to God. Saint Paul states, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
◗ It must strengthen the faith of both the “giver” of the prophecy and the “hearer or hearers.” “Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes through the words of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
The gift of prophecy, if properly used, has the power to change people’s lives. I believe that the Lord has chosen and appointed us, in spite of ourselves, to be His instruments. The world is waiting to experience the life-changing and life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. Are you willing to say “Yes” to the Lord and be His vessel to change the world around you?
© is a council member of International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS) representing the English-speaking North and Central America as well as the Caribbean countries. He is one of the 14 Council members who represent ICCRS to all the continents in the world. Canton also founded the Robert Canton Ministries, a non-profit organization aiming to evangelize the entire world through teaching, preaching and healing in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He and his family have been residents of Stockton, California, since 1973.
Every driver knows that one of the worst places you can find yourself in—is the "blind spot" of another driver. That is the little space in the line of sight between the coverage of the rear view or side mirror and the actual car next to us. I think we have all had the experience of checking our mirrors and then changing lanes, only to hear the mad blast of a horn as a car that was previously unseen to us speeds past. While our heart races over the near collision, we practically break our necks double checking the next twelve lane changes. And then sometimes the collision does happen. We could have sworn there was no car next to us but the accident happens and the problems and trauma ensue. One of my friends noted that this is true in our personal lives as well. How many times have we "run into or over" others simply because we did not "see them." It is the boss who regularly becomes angry and screams at his employees because "that's just how he is." It is the meddling mother-in-law who cannot get through a conversation without saying something cutting or judgmental, when "trying to be helpful." It is the spouse who is more concerned about him or herself than the marriage or family. Often no one wants to confront these issues and so the problem continues. Self-awareness is minimal and the pain it inflicts on others pours forth. Most of the time, our ‘blind spots’ come not from an area of malice, but simply from a lack of self-awareness. We do not know ourselves or our story well enough to understand what it might be like to interact with ourselves on a daily basis. I am often personally convicted when I complain about others because people have to live with me as well! They have to work, interact and relate to me—broken, fragile person just the same. But there is also another aspect to ‘blind spots’—we often do not see ourselves as we truly are in our deep lovingness to God. As Saint Paul writes in the context of speaking about authentic love, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We all long to see face-to-face. Our deepest desires involve loving and being loved, knowing and being known. This is an ache for eternity. When we see God face to face, we will finally see, know and love in fullness. Until then, we undergo this process of revelation, of knowing only parts and pieces as we move towards the whole. It is beautiful and sorrowful, wounding and life-giving. It is the path of true love—to behold ourselves and others as unique, precious and unrepeatable creations of God Himself. We could ask the Holy Spirit to reveal our ‘blind spots’—that He reveals the areas where we “run over” and miss people because we just do not see them. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to speak to our true identity, our true lovingness, and live in that reality rather than relating to ourselves and others from our masks, our wounded and skewed vision. We often do not know what we do not know. Let us ask to see clearly, all the way around.
There she is, just moments after getting the news that she is miraculously pregnant and, that too pregnant with the Son of God who is going to save the world. This girl of about sixteen decides to head out on her own to travel on a dangerous, nearly ninety-mile journey. Does this make any sense? No, it does not. She should be taking it easy and have a stress-free environment and someone—perhaps her husband, Joseph???—should be around her at all times. She should go directly to the doctor and get the best medical attention. Better yet, a doctor should be coming regularly to her house. Throw in a few security guards and some special home cooking. Why is she putting everything, including our salvation, at such risk? Why does she head out into such dangerous conditions when she is carrying heart. There is something about our hearts that never fail and it is this: whatever we carry in our hearts that is what carries us in life. We have different levels in our hearts, from the more superficial to the most intimate, a place deep inside us where God can live. We carry things in our hearts because they carry us in our life. My first car was a 1984 Chevy Monte Carlo. It was maroon and big and I loved it. It cost me $300 and moved like small aircraft carrier while spitting burned oil out the tailpipe at people who tailgated me. It carried me around and took me back and forth to school so I was able to finish my master’s degree. I have a little musical instrument called a charango. It is a cousin of the ukelele. Wherever I go I like to carry it in my arms and play it. It is not because it gets me attention. It is because it has carried me in my solitude so many times late at night and still does when I am alone in Ecuador. Now all of that is great, and we have a lot of things that carry us in life. Money carries us through life, so we like money. Friends and family carry us through life and we carry them inside us. Work, sports … well, you get the point. Only God can carry us through death. See, that is why Mary can go alone as a young girl on a dangerous, life-threatening journey, carrying God inside her. God is carrying her. He can carry her through everything, even death. Last time when I was in Ecuador, one of the local men, a founder of the neighboring village in the mountains, got cancer in his foot. The doctors told him that the only option for him to survive would be to amputate the foot. He said no. He moved down from the mountain and his wife and youngest daughter began to take care of him. I was able to visit him. I brought my charango and tried to learn some music from him. He would brighten up; Get his guitar off the wall and go on playing it. Not only was he the founder of the community, but he was a great guitar player, as well. When he was a young man, he played at the annual fiestas all night, playing more than 200 songs from pure memory, without repeating a single one. Almost no one in the community plays instruments anymore, so we had the idea of bringing some kids to his house to learn guitar and these songs. Only a few months later, his condition worsened and he could not play anymore. The cancer quickly spread and by the time he could put his trust in God, it was too late to amputate the foot. He passed away on Easter Sunday morning. At the funeral, there was no music. No one talked about his life. His wife felt lost and abandoned, the adult children did not know what to say. A weight hung over the family. He left his family, the music, his community—all for his right foot. His foot had carried him his entire life. But, it could not carry him through death. The church puts the feast of the Assumption as a holy day of obligation, because it puts in front of us the event of Mary literally being carried by God through death itself into heaven. We have a day dedicated to the reality that if we have God in our hearts, if we let Him delve deep in our hearts, then surely He will carry us through everything. Even death. Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah (Luke 1:39).
How do you put years of discernment on a single piece of paper or within a single write-up? As I was praying about it, the reality of its simplicity struck me: God called and I said, “No,” until Mary softened my heart. Well, actually it was more like, God called and I said, “No.” God called again and I said, firmly, “NO!” God asked yet again and I said, “No! Marriage, Lord, marriage.” God drew me to Himself, got His mom involved and asked me once more and I said, “Well … maybe.” God, in His infinite patience, asked a final time and I answered with a resounding, “Yes!” The first time I heard God call me was in the fifth grade. Our English class was learning how to write business letters. For our assignment we were supposed to write a formal letter to any company in which we could see ourselves working “when we grew up.” I thought for a while on it and realized that the only thing that sounded interesting and exciting to me was being a religious sister. So I wrote to a missionary sister who graciously responded to me. As part of the assignment, we were to share any responses we received with the entire class. I remember feeling embarrassed as I read her response out loud. That was enough to snuff out the desire to be a sister (I was a very sensitive kid). Throughout grade school the idea of being a sister was always in the back of my mind. I still heard God’s gentle voice calling me. But at that age, I did not want to confront it and so I dealt with it by saying flat out, “No.” Then, as a freshman in high school, my mom, sister and I took a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Now Jesus was pulling out the big guns and getting His Mom to help Him in His “little scheme.” He knew I had a soft spot for her and He played that card well. While in Medjugorje I felt, through Mary, the tug of the Lord growing stronger, asking me to devote my life to Him. My response was, “Sounds great, Lord, but I can devote my life to You without wearing a habit.” But Momma Mary softened my heart and helped me to be open to the idea of a marriage to Her Son. I went on through my high school years with this idea very much in the forefront of my mind. Being the stubborn person that I am, I told God that I was not going to commit until I tasted the dating life even though I knew in my heart of hearts that it would not bring me the fulfillment or satisfaction I desired and that it would not make me truly happy. Humoring me, God sent a very holy young man into my life. Through a youth group program I met my first real boyfriend, Anthony. He was everything I wanted in a husband (God covered His bases, making sure I would have no doubts): he was a gentleman, generous, self-sacrificing, not passive, considerate, mature, respectful to me, always upholding my dignity, funny, desired to be a saint, and challenged me to be holier. As a cherry on top, he was cute as well. While we dated I felt a separation between my heart and my body. It did not feel right. Something was off. It was like my mind and my heart hit a fork in the road and went in opposite ways: my heart was going toward religious life and my mind toward marriage. In my stubbornness I was attempting to lasso my heart and pull it over to the side my mind was on. I took it to prayer and (rather stupidly, since I knew the answer) asked God what was going on. He made it very clear to me (He is so patient with us) that in order to feel whole and in order to be at peace I was to give my entire life to Him, to be a bride of Christ. With that imagery, to be Jesus’ bride, I said, without a doubt and with such joy, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Now I will not say that I did not have any doubts later or any struggles along the road. Heavens…no! How could there not be when society sees you as a strange person because you are not following the norm and getting married? I still struggled with the desire to date. I found it hard to be wooed by Someone who is not tangible in the form you want Him to be or present to you physically in body. I struggled with telling people and admitting out loud that I wanted to dedicate my life to Jesus by being a Sister. But God remained faithful to me and He kept renewing His proposal to me in various ways. He knew my heart and wooed me in ways no earthly man could. I had so much love and support from family and friends which encouraged me, kept me focused and strengthened me in times of temptation, By the grace of God I had the perseverance and commitment to remain faithful to my call throughout grade school and high school. Now, twelve years after that initial call in the fifth grade, I have joined this religious community where Jesus is continuing to woo me and pursue my heart in ways I never thought possible. In turn, I am growing so much more in love with Him!
In 1986 the Sea of Galilee receded during a drought, exposing an ancient fishing boat, 27 feet long by 7.5 feet wide. It was taken to a nearby kibbutz where it was carbon dated. As it was proved to be approximately 2,000 years old and designed to carry between 12 and 15 fishermen, the locals called it the “Jesus boat.” When a group of tourists were being shown the boat, a young man asked if he could touch it. The archaeologist on duty explained that it was not permitted. However, when he admitted that he had touched the boat himself in the course of his work, the young man immediately touched him, and his fellow pilgrims followed suit. It all happened so naturally and spontaneously and in turn demonstrated a deep belief that something precious can be communicated by touch. It is a conviction that the heart of the Gospel story, begins with a very special touch—the touch of God. When the “finger of God’s right hand” touched the Virgin Mary, she conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit so that the love of God Himself was made flesh within her womb. As He grew “in wisdom and understanding” under the influence of the love that had conceived Him in the first place, He was able to communicate to others something of what He had received by His own sacred touch. It enabled Him to heal, make whole and even rise from the dead. Although He was moved by compassion to help people in their physical need, the power of His love that could be seen by all, symbolized a far deeper spiritual power—one that could bring not just physical but spiritual healing along with inner transformation. This spiritual power was handed on to the first Apostles so that they also could hand on to others what they had received from the Lord Himself. The love that had been received by Jesus in the fullest possible way on the first Easter day was passed on to the Apostles and used by them and their successors—as a sacred and holy touch to be handed down to successive generations. This is why touch is so important in the rites of Christian initiation. It means that the love of Christ that was communicated to us at baptism has been literally handed on for almost 2,000 years. In short, the priest whose hands were laid on us at Baptism had received the sacred touch himself from the Bishop who ordained him, and he had received it from the Bishop who had ordained him and so on in an unbroken line that goes back to Jesus Himself. Through this sacred touch we are given the very love of God that can be transposed into an ever more perfect way of loving that reach out from us to others. The loving touch of married couples then becomes the means by which the divine is communicated through the human to each other and then onto their children. The power of this love is dependent on the selflessness with which it is both given and received as their lives unfold. There is no other sacrament that so embodies the mystery of the incarnation as the sacrament of marriage, to which most of us are called and in which the majority of us are first formed. I only came to understand this properly myself when my mother died. Every morning before the funeral, my father woke me up with a cup of tea, sat on my bed and began to tell me a story that I had never heard before. It was a love story— the story of my father’s love for my mother and her love for him. He told me that they had received help and understanding through the first major crisis in their marriage from a childhood friend, Dom Aidan Williams (Abbot of Belmont Abbey from 1940 to 1948). By the time I was born, my father said he had entered into what he could only describe as an emotional limbo land where the feelings, the emotions, the passions that had once been so important in their relationship seemed to have all but disappeared. My mother seemed to find herself in a similar plight. Dom Aidan Williams was a deeply spiritual man who was able to show my parents that their love had not come to an end but to a new beginning. Love, he taught them, can never be judged in this life by feeling, but by giving—by giving even when you do not feel. In fact, giving without asking for anything in return is the most perfect expression of love. This is the highest form of loving possible on earth. This is the meaning of the Cross—it is a symbol not just for Christians but for all men and women who want to enter into the fullness of life. Only through a spiritual dying to self through selfless giving can a person open himself or herself fully to love, without which life has no ultimate meaning. He showed them how, with the best will in the world, the most idealistic of men and women will always come to an impasse in their spiritual journey, when the poverty of their own imperfect love suddenly becomes a barrier to receiving, in ever-greater measure, the love they want to receive without measure. As they came through that first major crisis in their married love, my father discovered, in the months and years that followed, how a new dimension gradually began to open out in their life together. Precisely because they had suffered and sacrificed together they became surer and securer in each other’s love. There were moments when they were bonded together more perfectly than ever before, when they were united in mind, heart and body in an experience that bordered on the ecstatic—an experience that is completely unknown to the person whose idea of love never rises above the purely physical. This new understanding of their married love did not mean that all their troubles and problems were over—far from it! What it did mean was that because of this new development, all the troubles, all the problems which they did have to face, could be faced because they could be faced together, with an inner strength from God, whose love they had ministered to each other. They met Dom Aidan later when he was posted to Sant’Anselmo, Rome, as the Procurator General of his Order. He told them that the way they had been living out their married life has been an inspiration to him and many others—so impressed by the way they had lived and loved each other, and brought up such a fine family. He explained to them a theological theory close to his own heart, more common in the Eastern Church than in the West—the theory of “physical redemption” that had been developed particularly by the Greek fathers, the short of which is that redemption, or salvation, is brought about by touch, the touch of God. Christ is the touch of God, whose physical presence sanctified a world of matter and form, of flesh and blood, by entering into it. Then through touch, He communicated the love that filled Him to others, who would go out and—by their physical presence, their touch—would communicate to others what they had received. This then, Dom Aidan explained, was the meaning of the laying on of hands that has characterized the Sacraments from the beginning. Love is communicated by touch. This is the tradition that literally hands on the faith that is not a body of facts but a body full of love, raised up on the first Easter to enter into all who would receive the touch of life. The Apostles, already touched by the Holy Presence, were penetrated through and through on the first Pentecost and went out to communicate what they had received to others. The hands, then, that touch and transmit the life of God to you at baptism were themselves the recipients of a touch that can be traced without break all the way back to Jesus. Dom Aidan explained to them how the physical and intimate loving that was at the heart of their married life was a profound continuation of this process, and not just a continuation but a celebration, in which the love they both received in the sacred touch of baptism was progressively brought to perfection. Not only did their physical marital loving bring Christ’s life to take birth again in each other, but it overflowed to the children who had been the fruit of their loving—a love that was now literally embodied in their sons, who in their turn would communicate to others what they had received from the touch of their parents.
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