Ecclesial movements are the providential response of the Holy Spirit to critical challenges of the new millennium, the divine finger pointing out where these challenges exist and ways in which to meet them. The Church was founded for the very purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth for the glory of God.
NASHVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - "Suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:2-3).
In the Old Testament, Pentecost was the feast of the first fruits of the harvest, always held fifty days after the Passover sacrifice. In the New Testament, it was at Pentecost that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the earth, fifty days after the Paschal sacrifice of Christ, through the disciples gathered and waiting in the Upper Room.
It was the Holy Spirit that burst forth upon the earth through wind and fire and carried Christ's disciples to the very ends of the earth. They, and their work, were the first fruits of the Holy Spirit's harvest of souls.
The Church was founded that Pentecost for the very purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth for the glory of God, to enable all humanity to share in redemption, and to gather the whole world, both the spiritual and temporal orders, into a relationship with Christ. The relationship of everything in and to Christ renews all of creation, initially on earth and completely on the last day. It is the special work of the Holy Spirit.
The Hands and Feet of Christ
All the activities of the Mystical Body directed to this renewal of creation are missionary; they are called the apostolate. The Christian vocation by its very nature is necessarily a vocation to the apostolate, so that no part of the structure of the living Mystical Body can be passive.
Each part has a share in the function as well as life of the body, which, "joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love" (Eph. 4:16).
"Indeed, the organic union in this body and the structure of the members are so compact that the member who fails to make his proper contribution to the development of the Church must be said to be useful neither to the Church nor to himself (Apostolicam Acuositatem, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Pope Paul VI).
For the exercise of ministry, the Holy Spirit sanctifies the people of God through sacrament and apostolate and gives us special gifts (1 Cor. 12:7), "allotting them to everyone according as He wills" (1 Cor. 12:11). Incorporated into Christ's Mystical Body through Baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation, each of us is assigned to the apostolate by the Lord Himself.
There arises for each believer, then, the right and duty to use these special gifts in the Church and in the world for the good of men and the building up of the Church, in the freedom of the Holy Spirit who "breathes where He wills" (John 3:8).
Renewing the Face of the Earth
"With the Second Vatican Council, the Comforter recently gave the Church, which according to the Fathers is the place 'where the Spirit flourishes' (CCC 749), a renewed Pentecost, instilling a new and unforeseen dynamism" (Speech for the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements, John Paul II).
As in the first New Testament Pentecost, there remains an element of surprise in the Holy Spirit's movement, and a diversity of ministry in the oneness of the mission of the Church. It is from this providential rediscovery of the Church's charismatic dimension that, before and after the Council, a remarkable pattern of growth was established for ecclesial movements and new communities.
The Church, herself renewed and refreshed, penetrates and perfects the temporal order through the fresh wind and fire of the Holy Spirit, renewing and refreshing the earth with the Gospel she carries forth.
Having stepped firmly into the third millennium, we can see in hindsight of Vatican II that the Holy Spirit was again "allotting his gifts according as he wills (cf. 1 Cor 12:11), and not just his gifts. "[The Holy Spirit] also distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank.... He makes them fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the Church" (Lumen Gentium, n. 12).
It was and is these special graces, distributed afresh after the breath of the Council, that inspired and empower ecclesial movements and their particular charisms. These movements, under the sanction and direction of the Church, advance the kingdom of God and reform and improve the temporal order in a Christian spirit. They are the providential response of the Holy Spirit to critical challenges of this new millennium, and highlight, in fact, where they exist and ways in which to meet them.
The laity who have followed their vocation and become members of one of the movements or associations approved by the Church faithfully adopt the special characteristics of the spiritual life which are proper to them, not separating union with Christ from their own lives, but rather performing their work according to God's and therefore growing in that union.
Come Holy Spirit
Ecclesial movements contribute diversely to the life, renewal and sanctification of God's people. Their institutional and charismatic aspects are therefore essential to the Church's constitution. Through these movements, "there are innumerable opportunities open to the laity for the exercise of their apostolate of evangelization and sanctification" (Apostolicam Acuositatem, Pope Paul VI).
We pray then, with John Paul II, "Come, Holy Spirit, come and renew the face of the earth! Come with your seven gifts! Come, Spirit of Life, Spirit of Communion and Love! The Church and the world need you. Come, Holy Spirit, and make ever more fruitful the charisms you have bestowed on us.
"Give new strength and missionary zeal to these sons and of daughters of yours who have gathered...Open their hearts; renew their Christian commitment in the world. Make them courageous messengers of the Gospel, witnesses to the risen Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Savior of man. Strengthen their love and their fidelity to the Church" (Speech for the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements, John Paul II).
Sonja Corbitt is a Catholic speaker, Scripture teacher and study author, and a contributing writer for Catholic Online. She is available to speak on the New Feminism, current events and your preferred theme. Visit her at www.pursuingthesummit.com for information and sample videos, or www.pursuingthesummit.blogspot.com.
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