It was an encounter with the Holy Spirit many years ago which led me back home to the Catholic Church into which I had been baptized as a child. Sometimes people¬†still ask me "What Happened to those¬† Pentecostal/Charismatic Catholics?" I guess my life is one of many answers to that question. The Spirit continued to lead me into the heart of the Church.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - Our Gospel passage records an encounter with Thomas to whom the Resurrected Lord would later reveal His Holy glorified wounds. The account of the missionary work of the early church in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles reminds us that the Holy Spirit is real - and can work today - if we believe it is possible.
These Easter readings recount the courageous living faith of the first followers of the Risen Savior in order to remind us it is meant to be normative. These experiences are not just part of a history book. They are an instruction manual for you and me.
These ordinary folks were witnesses to the Resurrection. So are we -¬†you and me -¬†right now.
Chapter 19 of Acts of the Apostles begins with these words, "While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the country and came (down) to Ephesus where he found some disciples. He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?" They answered him, "We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." (Acts 19: 1, 2)
Too often we live our lives like those disciples in Ephesus. We act as though we did not realize there even is a Holy Spirit! Yet an examination of the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament reveals the vital role of the Holy Spirit in the life and mission of the Church - and in the life and mission of every believer.
The early followers of Jesus gathered in that upper room on Pentecost expecting the fulfillment of the promise of the Lord. That promise was fulfilled. We refer to Pentecost as the birthday of the missionary church. Their encounter with the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room changed them. It was a call to carry forward in time His ongoing redemptive mission until he comes again.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is an invitation to us to live lives of sacrificial love, holiness and service in a world that God still loves - a world into which He sends His Son through the Body of Christ, the Church, of which we are members. The Holy Spirit draws us into communion with the Lord and participation in His Divine Life and mission.
That communion is lived in the Church. The Catholic Catechism, quoting St Augustine, affirms "What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church." (CCC # 797)¬†
I am one of many whose life was profoundly changed by a life changing experience of the Holy Spirit decades ago. I am old enough to remember when we were called Pentecostal Catholics. That was before the term charismatic took hold. Sadly, it also became a caricature.
Frankly, I do not use any adjectival description before the noun Catholic anymore. I am just a Christian, standing by choice in the heart of the Catholic Church which stretches back to the earthly ministry of Jesus and His choice of Peter and the Apostles to continue His redemptive mission until He returns.
However,¬†it was an encounter with the Holy Spirit many years ago which led me back home to the Catholic Church into which I had been baptized as a child. Sometimes people¬†still ask me "What Happened to those¬† Pentecostal/Charismatic Catholics?" I guess my life is one of many answers to that question. The Spirit continued to lead me into the heart of the Church.
My hunger for more of God and my passionate love for the Word of God, led me to continued theological studies and to ordination as a member of the clergy. My heart for evangelization led me to the myriad of ministries and works in which I have involved for decades.
Do I still believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available for ordinary Christians? You bet I do! I know that they assist us in growing in the fruits of the Spirit and manifesting the character of Jesus Christ through living lives of real holiness.
I do not identify with any movement these days. Rather, I identify with¬†Jesus Christ who has been raised from the dead and still pours out His graces through the Church which is His Body. My experience all those years ago was not about a movement but about a way of living in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world, in the Holy Spirit.
The Church was empowered by the Holy Spirit to live differently in the midst of a world awaiting the fullness of redemption; to lead the world back to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.¬† Can we live this kind of transformed Christian life in the stuff of our own daily lives? Yes, by living them in the heart of the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the words of the great western Bishop of Hippo, St Augustine, "We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song".¬† Death was dealt a fatal blow at the wounded but glorified hands of the Warrior of love. Death could not contain the One who poured Himself out in Love. He is alive and so are we.
We are witnesses to the Resurrection. Right now, in the year 2013. There is a glorified Resurrected Savior at the right hand of the Father, holding the place He has prepared for each of us. His wounds are glorified, beautiful, streaming the light of grace upon an earth being reborn, revealing the depth of His love and offering each of us the Hope that springs eternal.
We can find the purpose of eternity revealed in the temporal realities of our every today. The stuff of our mundane daily lives becomes the ingredients of our own sanctification; the materials out of which the new creation is fashioned anew around us, and within us.
The materials have not changed; we have, because He lives now in us and we live in Him. There is nothing we now face alone, no tomorrow that is not redeemed and made new in the timeless One, who, out of endless, eternal, unquenchable love, came into time to redeem and transform it.
Time unfolds into eternity in Him who has entered time and transformed it by His life, death and Resurrection. That Glorious Day understood by the Church as the first day of the new creation, that Day that the early Christians called the Eighth Day; is now upon us. It is also the portal to eternity. He is the firstborn, the first-fruits of a new creation and is making all things new now, within us and around us.
He is living His life through us, for others.
The ground from which God formed the first Adam, the ground upon which Jesus the Incarnate Word walked and into which they placed His sacred, lifeless Body, opened wide for the New Adam; it could not contain Him. He Rose victorious from the dead! 'Be not afraid' He cries out causing the stones to burst forth in our own lives.
'Be gone" He commands as he shines the light that dispels all the darkness! 'Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. (Hebrews 2:14-15)'.
Through sin, death came into the world. By the Sinless One it is vanquished. No longer an enemy, death is now a friend, an ally, to those who live their lives in the One who has been raised from the dead. No longer an end, it becomes a new beginning for all who hide their lives in His wounded side and live their lives forever joined to Him. Nothing can separate us from that Love incarnated in the Crucified, Risen Son of the True and Living God.
We can live in the encounter with the Risen Jesus and do the same works. We can live as though we actually believe that He holds the future - our future and the future of this whole world that He still loves- in those wounded, glorified hands.
The Resurrection is a lens through which we view everything, even suffering and loss. When we do, we discover they have beauty and irreplaceable value - redemptive, life transforming value- when we choose to follow the One who has been raised. 'Amen, Amen, I say to you, Whoever Believes in Me Will Do the Works That I Do.'
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