Baptism in the Holy Spirit
By Peter Thompson
I Christ has and will continue to renew His Church
Here we are, thirty-five years plus into the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. This profound grace of the Holy Spirit that has swept across the face of the globe, touching millions of Catholics with the grace of baptism in the Holy Spirit. This grace has renewed and restored the focus of our lives unto the Lordship of Jesus Christ, empowering us with charisms both ordinary and extraordinary, raising up gifted ministries of service to the body of Christ, the Church, sending forth evangelists, teachers, and those who minister in the power of the Gospel to many nations. It has been an extraordinary time of grace that we have had the privilege to live and serve within.
II Comparison of the Seven Churches of Revelation 1-3 with our own experience
Yet my mind goes to these words, “remember your first love”, written to the Church at Ephesus in the book of Rev 2:5. There were seven letters written to the Churches of Asia Minor by St. John the Apostle, given to him by Christ himself. We do not know the exact date when they were written but some scholars put the date that revelation was written at approximately thirty to forty years after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus into heaven and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. If this is so then there is a remarkable similarity in the span of time from Pentecost to the time these letters were written, and the time that the Charismatic Renewal has been within the Church (thirty-five years).
These seven Churches were first generation Christians living within the lifetime of the Apostles. They were Catholic Charismatics empowered by the Holy Spirit manifesting charisms and many other good works. But Jesus Christ has a stern warning for Ephesus and for four of the other Churches named. But for the other two he has no words of chastisement.
Beginning with Ephesus he lists all the good things that he sees in this Church (Incidentally Church here with a capital C denotes that these local churches were in union with the chief shepherd Peter and were under the authority of their local Bishop, successor to the Apostles). There is much to commend the Church at Ephesus for. They had worked hard, laboring in the harvest fields of God's Kingdom. They had patiently endured hardship, persecution, and had not grown faint or weary in their struggle. They had recognized and rejected false teachers who claimed to be Apostles yet were not. But Jesus (through John) goes on to say, “I have this against you, you have lost your first love, repent and do the works you did at first. If not I will come to you and remove your lamp-standard from you”. Their first work was in fact their passionate love for the Lord.
III Christ challenges us as He did these Churches
Could Jesus say these same words to us today as we celebrate thirty-five years of Catholic Charismatic Renewal!!! Would He speak words such as these to us, “Yes my people I have watched your growth, how you fell in love with me, burning with zeal for my word, how you have patiently endured much opposition even at times from within my body. You have persevered, not growing weary, gathering faithfully week after week to praise my name. I have seen how you have sought out authentic teachers to guide you, rejecting the allurements of false teachers. Yet my children look deeply into your hearts, for I see a fading of that first love, that burning fire that consumed you when you felt my touch upon your lives. You burned with zeal for my word, devouring the pages as I spoke to you, words of love and compassion. How few open my word daily to ponder the truths that are always there. Once again your bibles gather dust upon the shelves forgotten for days at a time…”. Would the Lord go on speaking to us of many other areas, as when he challenged the Churches at Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea. Both Pergamum and Thyatira where again Christ had much to commend.
Nevertheless, they had compromised their faith allowing lies and deceptions of Satan to weaken it. The most harsh words are reserved for Sardis and Laodicea. Sardis had the reputation for being alive in the Spirit yet was in fact dead. What a condemnation. God forbid that we in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal should receive a similar condemnation. Even though the renewal has the reputation for being alive: alive in the Spirit, alive in praise and worship, alive in good works authored by the Spirit. Let us pray that we never become an empty shell, white-washed tombs filled with dead bones.
Laodicea experiences the wrath of Jesus' words piercing the hearts of his listeners, “Because you are neither hot nor cold I will vomit you out of my mouth” (Rev 3:16). They were wealthy with the world's goods, a prosperous city, manufacturing cloth and medicines for the eyes. They were complacent, apathetic in their self sufficiency and Christ sternly warns them that in fact they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked spiritually.
Christ counsels them to buy gold that is purified in fire, the gold that comes from being tested and purified through trial and tribulation (cf 1P 1:7); spiritual ointment for their eyes so that their spiritual eyes would be open to see clearly their true state. Again we cry out to the Lord to preserve us from being lukewarm, from a return to apathy and self satisfaction or complacency.
IV Our response to His call
Jesus never leaves us in this state but exhorts us to recognize our ongoing need for Him, for the graces that flow from His throne through a genuine desire for prayer, for intimacy with our God. Here He stands at the door of our heart knocking gently. Do we have ears to hear His call once again. Many are familiar with the profoundly beautiful painting of Christ, the light of the world, as He stands knocking at the door. The door is covered by tangled ivy and has not been opened in years. Jesus stands with lantern in hand, there is no handle for Him to turn. He awaits our answer listening for our footsteps approaching the door in response to His call. If the door is opened Christ once again steps through and into our hearts, the place of intimacy and union to embrace us and to sit with us. To open the door is an act of repentance recognizing our renewed yearning. Yes Lord, I have sinned, I have allowed my first love to grow cold, I have compromised my faith. Lord I call out to you for mercy for I know that you are filled with mercy for those who call out to you.
Jesus is there to forgive through the sacrament of reconciliation, a sacrament of healing love. Through the hands of His priests we are once again restored to our first love. Zeal and perseverance are renewed and restored to those who seek Him diligently.
V Encouraged and renewed
The task ahead is so enormous that we would faint if we fully comprehend the work involved. Apart from Christ we can do nothing (cf Jn 15:5). Go back to that time of your own baptism in the Spirit, to the time when hands were laid upon you just as St. Paul reminded St. Timothy in 1 Tm 1:6. Stir into flame the embers, for Christ will not extinguish the flickering flame (cf Mt 12:20). Beg the Holy Spirit for refreshing fire to fall upon you. Seek out brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for a fresh infilling and release of the Spirit. Use the gifts that He gave to you, “at every opportunity pray in the Spirit” (Ep 6:17). Pray in tongues daily for he who prays in tongues builds up himself (cf 1 Co 14:4).
Come prepared to the prayer meeting, with scriptures, inspired prayer, prophecy, be open to tongues with interpretation and all the charisms. Be expectant to see the hand of God touching hearts and bodies with His healing hand of love. Then Christ can commend us as He did the two Churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia. There was no spot or stain upon them. They were poor yet abundantly rich in the Spirit. They recognized their own poverty and lack of strength without Christ. They were humble of heart and so Christ could use them in ways beyond their strength for they drew from His own mighty power (cf Ep 6:10).
This article was reprinted with permission from the ICCRS Leadership Formation Supplement., a supplement to the ICCRS Newsletter Vol. IX, Number 1 / Jan Feb 2003.