“Love is always patient and kind: it is never jealous, never boastful or conceited, never rude or
selfish. Love does not take offence, it is not resentful. It takes no pleasure in others sins,
delights in the truth, is ready to excuse, to trust, to hope; love endures whatever comes. This
quote is from St Paul’s letter to the Church he founded in Corinth” (one of the better known
The reason for mentioning this description of the divine love is because of the words of the
Lord to us in today’s Gospel’s from St John: “Love one another as I have loved you”. But before
we can love according to the divine love we have to be aware of the foundations of this love;
these are the gifts of the Holy Spirit which come to us in Holy Baptism and Confirmation:
fortitude, piety, fear of God, knowledge, understanding, counsel, and wisdom. From these gifts
of the Holy Spirit come the fruits of the Holy Spirit, two of which St Paul mentions in his
description of the divine love: patience and kindness. To have the divine love flower in us we
have to pray for the “gifts” to increase in us and try to understand them.
The first gift Fortitude (courage), is described as the gift which “energizes” the human will to
make the hard choices of the Christian life in rejecting the temptations of the world, the flesh
and the evil one. This gift also helps us to defeat “human respect”; that is, in today’s language,
peer pressure and political correctness: when we have to stand up for Christ’s “way” it give us
the strength to go against others’ disbelief and rejection. Fortitude allows us suffer the cross in
our lives without complaint so as to not burden others with our suffering. To love God, to
proclaim Christ to the world we need this gift.
Piety, another gift to the Holy Spirit, is said give us a “filial affection of God as Father”. That is,
we have affection as sons and daughters for God as Father, and this affection extends to our
neighbour for the sake of our Father. Piety allows us to have affection or respect for all the
authorities in our lives: parents, wives, husbands, boss, police, judiciary, and the state. Without
this gift we would be in denial of the Lord’s command to love God and neighbour.
Thirdly, the gift of the Fear of God—most of us have heard of this expression. Basically this is a
profound respect for God’s power. God is infinitely powerful, all-knowing, our creator;
furthermore when we begin to sense the glory and majesty of God, the effect in our hearts
provokes fear in us. But as we come to know God we also come see the infinite kindness,
compassion, beauty and goodness of God: seeing this side of God there grows a dread or fear
in us of ever harming such a wonderful being. If we are ever to turn away from sin and choose
God we really need this gift.
Knowledge, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, gives us the ability to evaluate all created things in
relation to their worth before God. It allows us to see behind the mask of pretence and
superficiality in others; it calls us to point out to such persons as these the true purpose of their
existence if they will hear us. This gift of Knowledge reveals to us God’s loving care for the
suffering. It puts first things first, or gets the priorities right. Without Knowledge we cannot
know the truth of created things nor the Truth: Jesus.
The fifth gift, Understanding, is beautifully described as that which “grasps the truths of
religion”. We are reminded that faith knows these truths but that Understanding gives us a love
and relish for them because it penetrates the inner meaning of the truths of our religion. This is
the gift that allows us to enter into the mystery of God’s revelation and to see the divine
beauty. Without this gift we do not love.
Counsel as a gift of the Holy Spirit is an umbrella over the gifts of Understanding and
Knowledge and uses them to make prompt and correct decisions in our everyday situations. It
is sometimes called supernatural common sense. Without it our love would take the wrong
path become something less than love.
The final gift of the Holy Spirit—Wisdom—embraces all the other six gifts within itself. Wisdom
promotes all the virtues (patience, kindness, generosity, chastity, modesty, etc) to their highest
degree. Wisdom enlightens our minds to the Divine Way—Christ said, I am the Way, the Truth,
and the Life: Wisdom brings us to Him. It also makes the Cross of our Saviour yield a divine
sweetness: how precious must be this gift if can make our suffering wonderful.
From this reflection we can conclude that Christ’s command: “Love one another as I have loved
you” is something that is not automatic or static, we must make an effort to grow in love by
asking for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to deepen and expand in us. The other conclusion is that
this process when begun by us and persevered with guarantees that we will grow in the love of
God—that we will love one another as Christ loved us. Why? Because the Lord has told us do
this and He is Truth, the Way, and Life.