As the woman walked across the sanctuary toward the lectern to proclaim the first reading, the congregation erupted into loud praise and applause. The ovation may not have been liturgically correct, but, under the circumstances, it was more than appropriate. It was a charismatic Mass, the Friday after Easter, 1976. The woman, who was known to many of us, had suffered from a degenerative disease. Several years before she had gone totally blind, but seven days ago on Good Friday, her eyesight was totally and instantaneously restored. Now, she boldly proclaimed the word of the Lord: "My eyes have seen your salvation...and the glory of your people, Israel."
That evening left an indelible impression on my mind, a message which is at the heart of the Gospel. It is at the heart of the paschal mystery-of Good Friday and Easter Sunday: All things are possible. Jesus' death and resurrection reveal that there are no limits on the power of God's love [Romans 8:31-39]. I had witnessed this reality in small ways before. Yet the healing of this woman was beyond anything I could have imagined. It was as if Christ himself was standing in our midst, the risen savior alive and at work among his people.
Throughout the years I have remembered that miraculous Easter. More than anything else, it stirred up within me a faith in healings, miracles, and conversions. I expected miracles to happen-not because of my prayer, but because of God's love. And miracles did happen: the child who walked away unscathed in the horrible car accident; the conversion of the agnostic friend; the coworker healed of cancer. There were other prayers which went seemingly unanswered. Yet the faith which had witnessed the Lord's presence in the miraculous was able to believe that the risen savior was also present in his people's pain and sorrow.
Much of the Charismatic Renewal's early energy was generated by our expectant faith. The power of the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in our midst motivated our sharing, our prayer, and our evangelization. As time went on, we seemed to see less and less of the wondrous, and our expectant faith dimmed. We seemed to have lost the very energy which enabled the Renewal to do what it was called to do-to renew.
We speak nowadays about renewing the heart of the church, renewing our parishes, and renewing the face of the earth. Do we have the energy to do it? Paulís words to the Galatians echo true for us today: "Having begun in the Spirit, are you now ending in the flesh? Did you experience so many things in vain?" [Gal. 3:3-4] The Galatians had seen signs and wonders in their early years, but when their memories faded, so did their faith. Paul challenges them to allow the memory of those early miracles to enliven their present faith, enabling them to draw upon the every-present power of the Spirit rather than rely merely on their own energy.
So too, we need to recall all that we have experienced, allowing the wonders of our own history to stir up in us a new expectancy. Signs and wonders are not the foundation of our faith, but they can strengthen our faith in the one who is the true foundation [1Cor.3:11]. They are signs of Jesus' resurrection, reminding us that he is present among his people, living and active. All things are possible for those who believe.
Ron Ryan is the editor ofCHARISCENTER USA, the newsletter of the National Service Committee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Reprinted, with permission, from the Mar./Apr. 1994 issue.