Sunday, January 24, 2016

Spider-Man, Charisms, and Me

William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, saw a connection between power and responsibility:
"The possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility."
("The Parliamentary Debates From The Year 1803 To The Present Time," Vol. 36. (1817))
Quite a few other folks have said pretty much the same thing, including a now-famous comic book writer:
"With great power there must also come —
great responsibility!
(Stan Lee, in Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962) (the first Spider-Man story))
It's hardly a new idea:
"...Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more."
(Luke 12:48)
- - - and that gets me to today's second Scripture reading, 1 Corinthians 12:12-30; the gist of which is in the shorter option:
"4 As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.

"For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

"Now the body is not a single part, but many.

"5 Now you are Christ's body, and individually parts of it."
(1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27)

Feet, Hands, and Getting a Grip

I like the parts that get left out in some parishes, partly because I enjoy a bit of snark now and then:
"If a foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,' it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.

"Or if an ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,' it does not for this reason belong any less to the body."
(1 Corinthians 12:15-16)
And who says Sacred Scripture is dull? Granted, even Luke 3:7 or James 2:20 might inspire yawns, if recited in a listless monotone.

I've wondered if Paul — that's how Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn imagined he looked — got tired of explaining that we can't serve God and not serve God at the same time.

Or, in today's New Testament reading, that we're not supposed to be alike.

On the other hand, Romans 6:1 is nowhere near as intense as James 2:19-20, and I'm drifting off-topic.

Where was I? Responsibility, Spider-Man, not being bored. Right.

A few decades back, my wife ran into a bunch of Catholics who were enthusiastic about speaking in tongues: to the point where they said everybody should speak in tongues. I've rubbed elbows with their Protestant counterparts, and I've been over this before. Not recently, though. (June 1, 2011)

Those folks are probably sincere, but I'm quite sure they're wrong. For starters, there's what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:23.

And there's the laundry list of charisms in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 and 1 Corinthians 12:28
  • Expression of
    • Wisdom
    • Knowledge
  • Faith
  • Being
    • Apostles
    • Prophets
    • Teachers
  • Doing mighty deeds
  • Gifts of
    • Healing
    • Assistance
    • Administration
  • Varieties of tongues
Folks in Corinth apparently weren't the only ones who needed a reminder that difference can be a good thing:
"For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function,

"so we, though many, are one body in Christ 3 and individually parts of one another.

"Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: 4 if prophecy, in proportion to the faith;

"if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching;

"if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, 5 with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness."
Romans 12:4-8)
"...Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them...." I'll get back to that

Spirit-Filled — Administrators?!

What charisms have in common is that they're gifts of the Holy Spirit: field kits we're issued, according to our part in helping others. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 791, 797-801, 951)

Some are very high-profile, like those 'tongues as of fire' mentioned in Acts 2:1-4. But we've got spirit-filled administrators, too: quietly administrating.

Backing up a bit, the Holy Spirit makes folks who are baptized "a spiritual house and a holy priesthood." (Hebrews 5:1-5; Revelation 1:6; Catechism, 784)

That doesn't mean we're all supposed to be clergy: or a tongues-speaking superstar.

Charisms aren't for the benefit of folks who have them: they're gifts that are meant to help "the Body of Christ, the Church." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2003)

No Loose Cannons

Let's imagine that late one night I think I see the cover of an old Superman comic book come to life, telling me I'm a prophet, and that God wants everyone to wear clip-on bow ties.

There's so much wrong with that, it's hard to know where to start.

Prophecy is a charism, and in principle I could be given that job: unlikely as it seems.

But "discernment of charisms is always necessary."

In that 'bow tie' scenario, I hope that I'd have enough shreds of good sense left to check with a priest:
"Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms.253

"It is in this sense that discernment of charisms is always necessary. No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church's shepherds. 'Their office [is] not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good,'254 so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together 'for the common good.'255"
(Catechism, 800-801)
(Much) more realistically, I've taken stock of the package I was issued. If I have the gift of speaking in tongues, God's been hiding it from me all these decades. I'm also not a healer, or an administrator: and this is okay. Like Paul said, we're not supposed to all be alike.

I do, however, have an unusual central nervous system. I have trouble thinking of the autism spectrum disorder as a "gift." But it's part of the package: along with decades of undiagnosed major depression, both of which let me see life from a particular viewpoint.

Writing and the 'One Talent' Servant

On the 'up' side, I'm brilliant, talented,1 and (now) on medication: which may help explain some of my art. (

I'm also a writer, and have been developing that craft since my youth. I do the odd bit of fiction, but one of my daughters is the story-teller in the family, and that's another topic. (June 9, 2013)

My stuff tends to be non-fiction: mostly these posts. This sort of writing isn't, quite, on Paul's list of charisms; but it's pretty close to "the expression of knowledge," and in the general neighborhood of teaching.

I haven't gotten formal permission from anyone in the Church hierarchy, partly on the 'it's easier to get forgiveness than permission' principle.

On the other hand, I've got Catechism, 801, covered: I've asked a deacon to let me know if I go off the rails. And, of course, do my research before spouting off on what the Church says.

Until and unless God gives me an obvious shove in some other direction, I plan to keep writing; sharing what I'm learning about my faith — and this wonder-filled creation.

That seems a much better bet than emulating the 'one talent' servant in Matthew 25:14-29: which gets me back to power, responsibility, Spider-Man, and that's yet another topic. Topics.

Vaguely-related posts:

1 That doesn't sound "humble," in the usual self-deprecating sense, and it's not. Humility, in the Catholic sense, isn't being delusional; it's acknowledging reality, and remembering priorities:
"HUMILITY: The virtue by which a Christian acknowledges that God is the author of all good. Humility avoids inordinate ambition or pride, and provides the foundation for turning to God in prayer (2559). Voluntary humility can be described as 'poverty of spirit' (2546)."
(Catechism, Glossary, H)
I've talked about hubris, humility, getting a grip, and what St. Thomas Aquinas said about boasting, before:

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