Pentecost: Mobilization of the Church

By Peter Herbeck:

At a gathering in Rome with Catholic charismatics in early June, Pope Francis characterized the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as a realgrace for our Church. The focus of the Church these days is the New Evangelization; everyone is trying to enter into it. At the first Evangelization at Pentecost, the outpouring of grace brought the fulfillment of Jesus’ words to the apostles: “I will send the promise of the Father upon you, you shall be clothed with power from on high… you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and then you will be my witnesses.” There is a direct connection between fruitfulness in evangelization, a zeal for the salvation of souls, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. Having a vital daily relationship with the Spirit empowers us and makes us capable of fulfilling the mission of Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis underlined so many of the fundamentals of the grace and outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He was asked to tell the Renewal what the pope expects from them. He said, among other things, “that you share with all in the Church, the grace of Baptism in the Holy Spirit.” Pope Francis sees this not as something just for people who have a particular spirituality or prayer form, but that it’s tied directly to Jesus’ promise of what Pope Paul VI called our perennial gain for living in the grace of Pentecost.

We have gotten a tremendous amount of clarity, a sense of urgency and a direct commission from recent popes to embrace fully this grace of the Holy Spirit and to proclaim it to others. This is the inheritance of what it means to be disciples, to be Catholic, to be baptized. It’s Baptism and Confirmation coming alive! It’s important for everybody to see this and not look at it as ‘the little Charismatic Renewal mission,’ or something only for those people. There is a message for the whole Church being given—that this is thefresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit—the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This is the grace and the power that the Church needs to fuel its response to the Great Commission to the New Evangelization.

The pope’s words were extremely encouraging and also very challenging. John Paul II used to say that the role of the Vicar of Christ is to help the Church interpret the signs of the times and what the Spirit is saying to the Church. That’s what Pope Francis did for us. He gave discernment and clarity and a wonderful important directive that I’m hoping we all take to heart. Because the Church needs it—it’s the basis for renewal, the renewal that everyone wants.

Personal Pentecost and the New Evangelization

We need to see the connection between Pentecost and the Great Commission. It’s all about equipping us to be able to fulfill Jesus’ mission to bring salvation to the whole world. Sometimes even in the Renewal the grace of Pentecost, in people’s minds, is limited to personal renewal, a personal experience of God, being healed internally and coming to know Jesus Christ and loving Him more. This is all part of it.

But my experience in working all around the world is that where the Renewal becomes an ongoing experience of Pentecost, it has dynamism, power and growth, and people connect it directly to the Great Commission. They understand that the Holy Spirit is the first agent of the Church’s mission. The Holy Spirit has come to reveal to every human heart what the Father has done in Jesus.

When our hearts are surrendering to the movement of the Holy Spirit, it is a movement from the inside out. St. Pope John Paul II said the fundamental characteristic of the Spirit in the Bible is that the Spirit creates movement. He doesn’t just enlighten our minds or give us internal comfort, but creates movement. Just like when the Spirit came upon those in the Upper Room, the Spirit stirred their deepest energies and thrust them into the marketplace to proclaim Christ’s Lordship and majesty. The dynamism and desire of the Spirit is to produce this movement in the Church. So when we fail to connect those two things and see it mainly as a personal growth experience that sustains us in our own comfort in Christ, it slowly dries up. That is the reason why many places in the Renewal have died out, because the main passion we ought to have—the salvation of souls—has been lost.

The Great Commandment and Commission is to love God and neighbor and go make disciples—to grow and to go—that is why the Spirit has been given to us! We focus a lot on the growing; we forget about the going. It’s a spiritual principle that the more you give away, the more you do what the Holy Spirit wants done, the more the Spirit is given to you.

Called by Baptism to be Missionaries

In Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, he said the Church is a community of missionary disciples. He kept underlining missionary because he knows how passive most Catholics are in relationship to the Great Commission. He said we need to become communities of missionary disciples and that’s not possible without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The missionaries are the ones who are sent and where movement occurs. If the Spirit is the first one who has been sent, the movement comes from living together in the Spirit and engaging in mission on a daily basis.

The great challenge for the Church is to actually mobilize Catholics to engage in the New Evangelization. We have lots of charismatics (people baptized in the Spirit) who haven’t continued to live it, or are not sure what to do and where to go. Where fruitful evangelization is really happening, however, there is a high percentage of people who are baptized in the Holy Spirit. That is the common denominator.

For many years popes have met with charismatics in Rome. And when they have spoken, they were not just trying to pump up those present at the time, but were actually saying ‘what you’ve experienced is something for the whole Church,’ and the Church needs it now!

The fact that you’ve experienced it is a clear indication that the Lord has commissioned you to continue to carry it forward faithfully!

 

 

 

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