Offers food for thought
Feast of Pentecost 2017
Readings: Acts 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23
Audio of preached homily
Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit = Revival in the ‘Body of Christ’
John the Baptist testified that, “the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’” John 1:32-34
We heard in the readings this weekend, about the Apostles being baptized with the Holy Spirit by Jesus in the upper room, which took place during the appearances of Christ in the days after his resurrection. John 20:19-23 The 11 Apostles had recently returned to Jerusalem, to the upper room where they were staying and praying. They were joined by various women who followed Jesus, Mary and others. As the days of Pentecost progressed, they were also joined by over a hundred disciples and led by Peter, the community discerned and prayed together about a replacement for Judas Iscariot. Acts 1:12-26 After he ascended into heaven and took his place at the right hand of the Father, which occurred at the conclusion of the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit and baptized [with the Holy Spirit] everyone there present with the Apostles, and the Church was ‘officially’ born. Acts 2:1-11, CCC767-768
So it was, the Holy Spirit arrived at the end of the Jewish Feast of Pentecost and as promised in the Old Testament Joel 2:28, CCC 761-762 and by Jesus John 14:15-31. The Holy Spirit came seemingly from the sky, with the sound of a strong driving wind. This was the moment they had been waiting for, a new action of God in the history of salvation. Then the Spirit descended like tongues of fire, symbolizing the presence of God and God’s initiation of the covenant on Sinai in the giving of the Torah.
The apostles were transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. They were fully renewed in the Spirit. They rose up and came out from the shadows of their limited understanding, and the safety of their shelter, to stand firm in faith and proclaim the saving message of Jesus Christ with nothing more than the safety of the promise of Christ to be with them to the end of the age. They then began to really “lift up [their] eyes” and to “look up,” Isaiah 60:4, and to say, “I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” Psalm 121:1-2.
The Spirit, likewise, empowers us to leave the security of the ‘upper room’ -- our comfortable ways of doing things -- and equips us to boldly give testimony with joy, in truth and love. This amazing power to communicate the Good News and to move hearts and minds is not due to our efforts or our cleverness. It comes from God's Spirit that enables us to go out to the streets and be witnesses who proclaim the truth of what the Gospel really means for our world. We recognize, that without the Holy Spirit we can do nothing. We cannot even say, “Jesus is Lord!” 1 Corinthians 12:3.
I’m just not feelin’ it, so what about me?
Many Catholics would say that they don’t really understand the Holy Spirit, don’t really ‘feel’ the ‘power’ that others do, and wonder about the need for sacraments like Baptism and Confirmation. Filled with a mixture of guilt, confusion, anger, bitterness and ultimately indifference, they say that they don’t experience the life of faith in a way that makes a real difference. There are many reasons this can be true and we each must reflect on the true nature of our faith, or lack of faith. But…
In the early days of the church, baptism was a powerful and grace-filled event that directly connected to a genuine conversion and so the experience of the Sacrament of Baptism was unmistakably by water and the Holy Spirit. As infant baptism became increasingly regular, conversions [as such] decreased. The disciples of the first centuries understood clearly that it was “not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life”. Titus 3:5-7 This doesn’t mean that our situation today is devoid of holiness and the charisms that accompany holiness. It’s just not as common. In fact it can ‘seem’ so rare, that most Catholics can believe that such things are only for the ‘Saints’ and the ‘Jesus Freaks’.
Catholics, unfamiliar with the need for conversion and therefore who are suffering being deprived of the full power of the Holy Spirit to fuel their faith, fail to mature spiritually and are therefore unable to meaningfully proclaim “in the Holy Spirit”, in word or deed, that “Jesus is Lord!” And because they have not reached that point we can reasonable expect that, “Jesus was not able to do many miracles there because of their unbelief” Matthew 13:58.
In order for the Sacrament of Baptism to operate in all its power, whoever chooses to believe, according to the creed and determines to live authentically as a disciple of Christ, must eventually / progressively set aside every sin and everything that distracts from obedience to the Lord. Whether baptized as an infant or as an adult, eventually everyone must intentionally choose to firmly commit to responding vigorously to that universal call to holiness. . . This is conversion – transformation in Christ, “And we all, with our unveiled faces beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another, for this is the work of the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 The person who has been a Catholic for any number of years, who experiences conversion and makes a faith decision can expect an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They will experience the powerful unbinding of the sacramental gifts.
Those who are in the Spirit will want to give their whole selves to the higher instincts of truth, love, compassion, sharing and justice. When we are full of that Spirit, we have truly risen with Christ. We are both alive and life-giving. “I live, no, it is not I, but Christ who lives in me.”
Without this conversion experience, Baptized and Confirmed Catholics suffer mediocre lives of faith because the gifts received at the moment of our second birth / adoption in God, are still sealed up, “unreleased”. We need the outpouring of the Spirit to actualize or revive the gifts of our baptism. This won’t just happen by accident or a unilateral act of God.
When we let go and let God, the fire of the Holy Spirit renews the face of the earth!
There are many sincere Catholics who express concerns, derived from observance of ‘charismatic groups’. Their concerns are not without merit. The Church condemns blind dependence on, universalizing the necessity of, and so called ‘emotionalism’ in the manifestation of the ‘special’ charisms. This is because, with rare exception, it results in failure to become immersed in the fullness of the faith and to live according to the judgement of the Church's teaching authority. This is immediately evident in the examples of those who experience such manifestation of charisms, even when authentic, but reject the sacramental life of the church or determine that they must leave the church. The Spirit of God would never lead one away from the truth about Christ.
The Church teaches that Faith, Hope and Charity are necessary for salvation but the charismata are not. St. Paul contrasts these with "the greater gifts" of Faith, Hope and Charity (1 Cor. 13), which he says have lasting value. These "theological virtues" unite the person's mind and will to God. However, the Church cannot deny the authentic work of the Holy Spirit, of which she herself is first and foremost borne.
Participation in the life of the Church should always lead to a deeper faith, greater practice, fuller knowledge and uncompromising participation in the mission. Since charisms are given to build up the Church, the presence in the Church of dynamic and faithful institutions, organizations, religious communities, youth conferences, college ministries, businesses, nonprofits, lay evangelists, spirit filled artists and so much more… is evidence of the authentic work of the Holy Spirit and the great good that can be done by those graced with authentic charismatic gifts exercised in union with the Church.
One of the greatest modern examples of the power of the Holy Spirit working through the conversions of individuals is the movement known as The Catholic Charismatic Renewal. This year the movement is 50 years old, and as a movement within the Catholic Church it has been acknowledged and affirmed by the current and the previous 3 Popes. Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, Pope Paul VI
The Charismatic Renewal was initiated in February 1967 when a group of students on retreat at Duquesne University began praying for a fresh outpouring of Pentecost. Many of them had profound “baptism in the Spirit” experiences which resulted in a deeply enriched relationships with Jesus, renewed commitment to prayer, and a desire to know their faith and live it more faithfully. They were impelled by this release of graces to eagerly respond to the gospel call to bring the message of Jesus to others, and to use of the gifts and charisms of the Holy Spirit to do it. Through their efforts and the continued outpouring of the Holy Spirit, there are now 9 million American Catholics and more than 120 million Catholics worldwide claim to have experienced this baptism.
For more information about the Holy Spirit, or the ‘Catholic Charismatic Renewal’ please refer to:
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.