Each era of history has its own particular struggles. In the early Church it was outright persecution. Later on, as the Roman Empire collapsed, it was the barbarian invasions (or as one Catholic priest put it, the migrations of our ancestors!) There were times of material prosperity and spiritual poverty and vice versa.
No matter the struggle, the antidote was always spiritual renewal. The needs of the times were met by people who were equipped with the wisdom, power and love of the Holy Spirit. These people transformed an anemic and spiritually tepid Church into a strong and vital Church. In our day, shortly after the end of Vatican II, the charismatic renewal burst onto the scene in the Catholic Church. Beginning in Pittsburgh with some students from Duquesne University, this movement quickly moved from a local movement to an international movement. And the purpose of these manifestations of the Holy Spirit was to help revitalize and equip the Church in our age.
As I see it, there are two main ideologies that are permeating the cultures of the world today. The first is secularism. Basically, this mode of thinking says that God has no place in public debates. With no objective basis for truth, the prevailing opinion, often shaped by media moguls, is what makes for moral rightness.
The second ideology is a bit more subtle. I will call it tolerance. Now tolerance is actually a very good thing. However, when tolerance becomes the only virtue or the primary lens through which you interpret everything else, it shuts down all discussion. An issue like homosexual “marriage” is no longer thought of as having a moral component. Instead, it becomes a civil right that needs to be tolerated.
How does the charismatic renewal help the Church meet the challenges of secularism and “tolerance”? First, those who have experienced baptism in the Spirit know the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, in speaking of the coming of the Paraclete, said,
…I will send him to you. And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation. (John 16:7b8)As a Church, we need to be convinced in our heart of hearts, with clarity of thinking, about sin, righteousness and condemnation. We need to be convinced that we have the truth and then act and preach accordingly! The power of the Spirit needs to convict us so that we can be his instruments of convicting the world! When Peter preached the gospel on Pentecost, the initial hearers did not say to themselves, “Oh, what an interesting message! I never thought of it that way!”
“…they were cut to the heart and they asked Peter and the other apostles, ‘What are we to do, my brothers?’” (Acts 2:37b).That was the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, the Holy Spirit gives individuals gifts of power and supernatural knowledge to break through the barriers people erect. A secularist who experiences a supernatural healing will be more open to the message of Christ. The gifts of the Spirit can break through the ideologies that wall people off from the gospel.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Bob Franco
PS: Please put Sunday May 19th Pentecost Mass Celebration* and The 31st Annual Charismatic Conference, July 19th & 20th* on your “to do” list. Don’t miss out! The Holy Spirit will be present with power to convict us ever more deeply of the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord!
*Look for Details in this issue of The Flame.