The Church Needs to Be Baptized Afresh in the Holy Spirit
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We need to pray for a New Pentecost for the Church in this hour! We need more of the Holy Spirit for the New Evangelization of the Church - so that a renewed Church can engage in the missionary task of the Third Christian Millennium. We need to be baptized afresh in the Holy Spirit in order to take our role as a member of the Body of Christ in this new missionary age. The Church needs to rise up in this hour, clothed with the same power with which she transformed the world of the first centuries.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - On May 24, 2015, in the Liturgical Calendar of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, we will celebrate Pentecost Sunday. On the first Pentecost, the early followers of Jesus gathered as their Lord commanded them, expecting the fulfillment of the promise he had made. "Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49)
We refer to Pentecost as the birthday of the missionary church for good reason. That reference is meant to be more than sentimentalism. It is meant to evoke more than a memory.
Encountering the Holy Spirit
The encounter of those first Christians with the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room changed them. They were filled with the same Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead. The Holy Spirit capacitated them, made it possible, by grace, for them to carry forward in time the ongoing mission of Jesus Christ until he returns to complete the work of redemption.
Every year, this celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is an invitation to everyone one of us to have the same encounter. It is the same Holy Spirit which makes it possible for us to live lives of sacrificial love, holiness and service in a world that God still loves - a world into which He still sends His Son, through the Body of Christ, the Church - of which we are all members.
We are now commissioned to carry forward the very same mission of those first disciples who gathered with Mary the Mother of the Lord. Jesus promised his followers: "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12)
In these in words recorded in that same chapter of John's Gospel he promised: "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you."
Among the readings read at the Mass on Pentecost day is the account of that first Christian Pentecost:
"When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim." (Acts 2)
There is NO doubt from their actions following that event that they truly were different. They went forward and turned the entire world upside down with their preaching and the witness of their changed lives.
The Disciples at Ephesus
However, in many respects, the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, seems mysterious to many Christians in our own day. When I consider this reality I am reminded of one of the many missionary stories recounted in the Acts of the Apostles.
Chapter 19 of Acts 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, still at work, still pouring out gifts and still making it possible for us to bear spiritual fruit, by growing into the very character of Jesus Christ, becoming more and more like Him.
The same Holy Spirit is still working to effect conversion and change in each one of us, individually and collectively, making us new, into the Image of Jesus Christ. The same Holy Spirit is still calling us to make disciples of all the Nations.
We need more and more of the Holy Spirit.
An examination of the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament reveals the essential role of the Holy Spirit in the life and mission of the Church - and in the life and mission of every individual believer. A study of the Christian Tradition, the magisterial teachings of the Church and the Catholic Catechism underscores that this reality is meant to continue. It was not meant to be a onetime event. Rather, we need to constantly be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The purpose of Pentecost was - and still is - the empowering of the Church with the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead! That power, dunamis in Greek, from which we derive the word dynamite, comes from the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit draws us into communion with the Lord and participation in His Divine Life and mission. That communion is lived within 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 countless thousands whose life was profoundly changed by an experience, an encounter, with the Holy Spirit decades ago. I am old enough to remember when we who had this encounter were called "Pentecostal Catholics".
That was before the term "charismatic" took prominence in some circles as an adjective.
I understand it became the preferred term for certain theological reasons, mostly because it refers to the charisms and gifts. As a budding theologian, I am sensitive to the need for the use of effective terms which help to deepen our understanding of the Christian life and vocation.
However, I do not really care for any adjectival description before the noun Catholic. I am simply a Christian, standing by choice in the heart of the Catholic Church which stretches back to the earthly ministry of Jesus and forward to His return.
The Spirit Brought me home
In fact, it was just such 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. The Holy Spirit brought me home to the Church.
Sometimes, people ask me all these years later, especially after they hear of my earlier identification with that movement now called the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, - "What Happened to all those Pentecostal/Charismatic Catholics?" I guess my life is one of many living answers to that question.
The Holy Spirit continued to lead me into the very heart of the Catholic Church, with a love which extends to embrace all who share the name Christian, to whom I am joined by Baptism. I often refer to this love for all Christians as a big hearted ecumenism.
As a Catholic Christian, my heart grieves over the divisions in the Body of Christ and I long for, pray for and work toward the healing of the divisions. They were not and are not the plan of God. The Prayer of Jesus rises to the father "May They Be One...so that the World May Believe." (John 17:21)
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, a Catholic Deacon. My beating heart for evangelism led me to assist in the myriad of ministries, apostolates and works in which I have been involved for decades.
Do I still believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available for ordinary Christians? You bet I do!
The gifts set forth in the Prophet Isaiah, of which the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, "The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. (Is. 11:1-2) They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations."
And, yes, what are called the charismatic gifts, which the same Catholic Catechism explains with maturity in a section entitled The Church is the Temple of the Holy Spirit which should be read by every who wants to grow in understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit.
This excellent teaching source is full of the biblical texts, quotes from the early fathers of the Church (patristic sources) and good, solid teaching from the centuries of the Church. It reflects on these gifts and their role in the life of a Christian, as well as the mission of the whole Body of Christ. (See, Catholic Catechism #797-801)
In its section on the Charisms we read:
"Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world.
"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.
"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,"so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together "for the common good."
I do not identify with any particular movement in the Church these days. Rather, I identify with the 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 joining a specific movement - but about a new way of living in the Lord - by allowing the power and life of the Holy Spirit to work in and through me.
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Pentecost Still Happens
I believe that Pentecost still happens. I KNOW it still happens. We can ALL know it still happens because we can experience its effects in our own lives. We should not be afraid of the Holy Spirit! In fact, we should regularly seek to be filled with more and more of the Spirit.
Over the years, the term ecclesial movements has become the term used to refer to the many movements within the Catholic Church which demonstrate that the Spirit of Pentecost is alive and well. Though each has a unique charism and mission, they all invite Christians to have a personal relationship, an encounter, with the Lord Jesus Christ.
These movements all proclaim that He has been raised from the dead and He is alive in our midst in the Church which was birthed from His wounded side on Calvary. The Church which is His Body. These movements all call men and women to the encounter with the Risen Jesus , and to experience the Pentecost of the Holy Spirit He promised, right now.
Pentecost is not about a onetime experience. It is about a way of living in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are led by the Spirit to live in the Heart of the Church, for the sake of the world. The Church is meant to become the home of the whole human race. Within the communion of the Church we become leaven and seed in the loaf of human culture, in order to lead the world into the new world, which is the Church.
We are also called to live a unity of life, where our Christian faith is not compartmentalized but rather informs and permeates our daily life. We are called to love the Church, recognizing that she is "Some - One" not some-thing - the Body of Christ continuing His redemptive mission on the earth until He returns.
We are ALL called to be missionaries, no matter what our job or state in life. The missionary mandate of the Church extends to Christians in every state in life and every Christian vocation. These movements all further demonstrate that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are real and still available for all Christians.
The Purpose of Pentecost
The purpose of Pentecost is the birth - and continued rebirth - of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church is Plan A and there is no Plan B. The Holy Spirit was not poured out on the disciples so that they could form movements outside of the Church, or compete with one another in movements within her.
Rather, the Holy Spirit was poured out so that they could become full members of Christ's Church living His life within her bosom, for the sake of the world which God still loves - so much that He still sends His Son. He sends Him through His Body, the Church, of which we are all members.
Jesus told the disciples that He must ascend, to "my Father and your father, my God and your God" (John 20:17) because, in His own words "If I do not go I cannot send the comforter. And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned."
And in the same Gospel "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming." (John 16: 7-15)
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, right now, today, in the heart of the Church and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Come Holy Spirit! The Church needs to be baptized afresh in the Holy Spirit.
There is a lot of bad news in our contemporary culture. However, this culture is not all that different than the cultures into which the early Christians were sent on mission; cultures such as the one which the Christians in Ephesus confronted. They needed the Holy Spirit to do their work and so do we.
The answer for the malady of this age is the same as the answer of those early disciples, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Like them we are called to present the new culture revealed in the heart of the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit to our own age. This is a new missionary age and we are called into the whole world to preach the Gospel in both word and deed.
A New Pentecost
The Second Vatican Council in the Catholic Church began with a prayer for a New Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost and continues to be poured out on, in, and through the Church, for the sake of her mission in the world. Pentecost was and is the birthday of the Church. The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church and the source of her power for mission.
We need to pray for a New Pentecost for the Church in this hour! We need more of the Holy Spirit for the New Evangelization of the Church - so that a renewed Church can engage in the missionary task of the Third Christian Millennium.
The Church needs to be baptized afresh in the Holy Spirit and we who bear the name Christian need to take our take our role as a member of the Body of Christ in this new missionary age. The Church needs to rise up in this hour, clothed with the same power with which she transformed the world of the first centuries - and do it again!
Deacon Keith A. Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and seven grandchildren. He is a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate who served as the first and founding Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice in the nineteen nineties and has long been active at the intersection of faith and culture. He serves as Special Counsel to Liberty Counsel. He is a senior contributing writer to The Stream.
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