Gifts and Purpose
The St. Anna Series
5 reflections on Anna at the Purification of Mary and Presentation of Jesus in the Temple as recounted in St. Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 2: 22-38.
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; she was of great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow, until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2: 36-38
And there was a prophetess, Anna…
A prophetess is, quite simply, a female prophet. Throughout Israel’s history, prophetesses existed and served the same purpose as prophets. They were a mouthpiece for God, bringing attention to the coming of the Messiah and, then, His subsequent arrival. True prophets and prophetesses were considered commissioned by God rather than elected or appointed by human officials, and they used a variety of methods to deliver God’s message. Prophecy was then – as now – considered a special gift of grace received for the benefit of the entire community.
Prophecy was Anna’s gift. How has the Lord gifted you, and for what special purpose?
In the New Testament, you can find several different lists of spiritual gifts in Paul’s letters. The basic idea is that each of us has been created in a unique way to accomplish God’s purpose and to benefit those in the community around us. We are gifted to serve God, not to serve ourselves. In the throes of the “i generation” it is easy to lose this perspective! Many of us have an idea of “what we are good at” as we age and gain more life experience. But have we figured out how to use our gifts and talents for God’s purpose rather than our own?
The team that we have built at Purification Heritage Center (PHC) is bringing joy and vitality to the area where the Catholic faith took root in our state over 200 years ago. We are working hard to accomplish our vision, but we want to work wisely, too. To that end, our team members have taken a talent/strengths survey developed by Gallup called The Clifton Strengths Assessment. Although different than a traditional spiritual gifts inventory that many faith-based teams use, it has been extremely valuable to our collaboration with each other. As we discern God’s will for PHC, we are discerning our own unique qualities and how they can serve God, our team, and the community at large. Advancing in this knowledge makes the work fun, lively, and meaningful.
We discover how Anna used her gift of prophecy for God’s purpose and the betterment of the community from the very last verse of the mere 3 verses written about her in the entire Bible. Apparently, she had been fasting and praying night and day in the temple, which were not activities of speaking or serving as a mouthpiece. When Anna encountered the child Jesus, though, she gave thanks to God and spoke of Jesus to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem and God’s promised Messiah. Indeed, at age 84, she proclaimed her ultimate and most important prophecy after encountering Christ. Late in life, she continued to be inspired to use her gift and bring glory to God.
It’s never too late to discover your gifts and direct them towards God’s purpose. If you don’t know your gifts, talents, or strengths, take action to discover them, and then work to align them with God’s action in the world.
St. Anna, who used your gift for God’s glory and for the betterment of your people, pray for us!
pic: Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of Jesus, Baritus Catholic