FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
SPIRITUALITY OF THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
May 22, 2012
The spirituality for the New Evangelization is charismatic spirituality. While there are many different spiritualities in the Church (for example, contemplative), and all are valid and important, charismatic spirituality is intended by God for the work of the New Evangelization.
How is this so?
First, charismatic spirituality is the spirituality of empowerment by the Spirit for worldwide mission.
Before Jesus ascended to heaven, after having commissioned his disciples to preach the good news to all the nations, he told them to wait for the promise of the Father, by which they would be “clothed with power from on high.” (Lk 24:49). Jesus told them that they would “be baptized with the holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:5). Jesus further said, “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). This baptism in the Holy Spirit is empowerment for worldwide mission.
As Catholics we of course have received the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. In charismatic renewal, people are prayed with for the so-called baptism in the Spirit, in order that there be a renewed infilling or outpouring of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and so that they would become witnesses to bring the good news of salvation in Jesus to many others.
Second, charismatic spirituality is the spirituality of Pentecost, when the Church was born.
Jesus had told them to wait, and the disciples did as they were told. They waited in Jerusalem, praying in the upper room. Then, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon them. The manifestation of this infilling by the Holy Spirit was that the disciples “began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” (Acts 2:4). They praised God and proclaimed “the mighty acts of God” in a loud voice. Some people thought they were drunk (Acts 2:15).
Peter was emboldened and empowered to preach one sermon where 3,000 persons were converted. He explained that what was happening was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel. God pours out a portion of His spirit upon all flesh, and people prophesy, see visions and dream dreams (Acts 2:17). Then God will work wonders and signs (Acts 2:19), so that those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved, before the second coming of Jesus (Acts 2:20-21).
Third, charismatic spirituality is the spirituality of the early Church.
The early Church was a charismatic Church. The baptism in the Spirit was an integral part of mission. Peter and John prayed for Jews in Samaria to receive the Holy Spirit; “they laid hands on them and they received the holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:17). Through Peter, the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on Gentiles, and they spoke in tongues and glorified God (Acts 10:45-46). Paul went to Ephesus and baptized some disciples in the name of Jesus. “And when Paul laid his hands on them, the holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.” (Acts 19:6).
As the Church grew and became institutionalized, the charismatic dimension was diminished, and even lost. God sought to bring back this essential dimension of Church life and mission, and so the Catholic Charismatic Renewal started in the mid-1970s.
Fourth, charismatic spirituality is the spirituality of our ancestors-in-faith, the Israelites.
God intended Israel to be His light to a pagan world. The people whom God formed as a people, whom He entered into covenant with, whom He taught about worship, were charismatic. Charismatic worship was the norm.
This is evident from their “songbook,” the Book of Psalms. They were exhorted to praise out loud, to shout, play musical instruments (loud ones like horns and cymbals), to lift their hands, to dance.
Even King David, out of joy at the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, led the people in procession amid great festivities. David stripped down to a linen apron and danced with abandon, while all Israel gave out shouts of joy and to the sound of the horn (2 Sm 6:14-15).
Christians today are the new Israel. We inherit the promises of God to His chosen people. But what God intended for Israel, in raising them to be His light to the world, is also for us Christians today. This includes our spirituality. We would do well to live out such a spirituality. Even if those close to us become ashamed of us (2 Sm 6:20). Even if people think that we are drunk (Acts 2:15).
Fifth, charismatic spirituality is the spirituality that more readily brings people, especially nominal Christians, to personal conversion and transformation in Christ.
It touches not just the minds but especially the hearts of people. When Peter preached his sermon on Pentecost, those who heard “were cut to the heart” and were led to repentance (Acts 2:37-38).
From repentance, people continue on their journey, looking to the holiness to which they are called. This is how they become effective witnesses to the faith.
Sixth, charismatic spirituality is the spirituality that provides spiritual gifts that are essential for mission.
When the Church speaks about spiritual gifts, what is often thought of are the seven gifts in Isaiah: wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord (Is 11:2-3a). These are sanctifying gifts, essential for us to grow in holiness. On the other hand, there are charismatic gifts, intended for service. The main list of such gifts is in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (there are other gifts in other passages). Sanctifying gifts are for the internal dimension of our individual Christian life, while charismatic gifts are for the external dimension of service, including building up the body.
Many of these gifts are no longer appreciated or even known. But they are crucial to evangelization and mission. For example, faith refers to the faith that moves mountains (or demolishes strongholds). Miraculous healings and mighty deeds are manifestations of the power of the Spirit. Tongues is important for prayer (1 Cor 14:2) and for connecting to the spirit of God (1 Cor 14:14).
Seventh, charismatic spirituality is the spirituality that builds Christian community.
The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples resulted in Christian community, in the establishment of the Church. The disciples began to live a communal life, characterized by formation, prayers and worship, the Eucharist, sharing of resources, meetings and fellowship, effective witness, massive evangelization (Acts 2:42-47). They even solved the problem of poverty, such that there was no one in need (Acts 4:32-35).
Everyone receives a charismatic gift (1 Cor 12:7,11). These gifts are used to build community (1 Cor 12:12,27-30), to prepare the body for service to the larger society. The work of evangelization is the work of the whole Church and not just separate individuals.
Eighth, charismatic spirituality is the spirituality of worship in heaven.
We all want to get to heaven. Now according to the vision of John, worship in heaven will be charismatic. The angels and saints praise and cry out to God in a loud voice (Rev 7:10,19:1). It will be “like the sound of a great multitude or the sound of rushing water or mighty peals of thunder” (Rev 19:6).
It would be good to get used to it while we are still on earth.
One problem in the Church today is that Catholics do not really know the Holy Spirit. They know the Father, who is Creator. They know the Son, who is Savior. But they miss out on the Holy Spirit, who is Sanctifier and who empowers for mission. It may well be that most Catholics today, when asked, “Did you receive the holy Spirit when you became believers?” (Acts 19:2), would answer, “We have never even heard that there is a holy Spirit.” (Acts 19:2).
Catholics first receive the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Baptism. Baptism cleanses us of original sin and makes us children of God. It is “a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” (Acts 19:4). Then, when we have been instructed in the faith and are mature enough to think and decide for ourselves, we receive the sacrament of Confirmation. This makes us soldiers of Christ, tasked to proclaim him to the world.
But how come many baptized and confirmed Catholics are so sinful, lethargic in their faith, not aware at all of the call to evangelize? This is where a renewed infilling or outpouring of the Holy Spirit is needed. This is accomplished through the so-called baptism in the Holy Spirit and entrance into the charismatic dimension of faith.
The Catholic Church is in essence a missionary Church. But how can she accomplish her mission without the active work of the Holy Spirit?
Do all Catholics have to be charismatics, or be part of charismatic renewal? No. But if the Church is to effectively pursue the New Evangelization, if the Catholic Church is to live up to its essence as a missionary Church, then charismatic spirituality is very very helpful. I might even say crucial.
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