Renewal and Reform

renewal and reformRenewal and Reform 

Episode 7

Renewal and reform has become somewhat stagnant. The times have changed, for some, the initial enthusiasm has waned or has been lost by a return to past weaknesses, or a more lethargic spiritual life in a very secularized society. The business,  distractions, distress, and fatigue of modern life can easily draw people away from centering on “the hard work” of spiritual growth, human maturity, and generous service to others. It seems like a good time to look at the possibility of reasonably providing new opportunities for transformation beyond the confines of any specific renewal movements. And also consider supporting individuals who may want to make new starts, and at the same time provide opportunities which possibly could serve others in seeking spiritual empowerment for themselves.

The Church’s Grace of Renewal and Reform:

Mentioning again that Pope Benedict XVI said a number of times at the Council that the reality of the Paschal Mystery is the central message of the Council, and combining that statement with the words of St. Anthony of Padua which was, every Christian needs to bring alive the reality of Pentecost in their life before they die. We find ourselves at the doorstep of the possibility of a “new empowerment” of the grace of the Holy Spirit beyond the confines of the renewal movements in the Church. This is a good thing! While not minimizing in any way the on-going good that the renewal movements continue to do. We can try and design an approach that brings about the same reality in a somewhat extended and altered format. A format which also may be attractive at this time in the Church’s life beyond the positive activity of the renewal movements in individuals very busy and active lives. This effort may also give us the opportunity to broaden the characteristics of this new approach, which can include some elements of growth that are not normally considered in the sound methods of the renewal movements. For example, little effective “spiritual growth plans”, power-centered means of intercession and atonement. This type of thing is really about finding ways of effectively evangelizing Catholic culture.

The Challenge:

The challenge presented here is how should we go about designing an effective program or activity that would accomplish the necessary objectives? I know Jesus told his disciples that a wise servant knows how to bring out of his storeroom things, both old and new. Instead of us using one of the seminars in the renewal movement, which we are all familiar with, and which are very effective when focusing on a renewal in the Holy Spirit. We may want to try and adopt a format which approaches “a broader experience which embraces the Churches Grace of Empowerment.” Here we are not speaking of a new catechumenate or a form of the RCIA, these very good programs are far too lengthy. We need something simple which becomes “the new wineskins” to hold the new wine of our hoped for objectives, and considers the full perspective of the Paschal Mystery. What we are seeking is the full impact of the death, resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost, which is an experience of the full power of the Cross, Resurrection, glorification of Jesus, and empowerment of the Spirit sent by Jesus and the Father at Pentecost. A simple format or program, which brings these crucial graces together as one!

When we give attention to the complete experience of the Paschal Mystery it is necessary to concentrate on “the new life in the Mystery of Christ”. This new life is at the heart of and the core of the form of the Gospel. The starting symbol would be the blood and water flowing from the pierced  Heart of Christ on the Cross. The gift of Paschal spirituality is the gift of Divine Mercy. In this season of Mercy, we seek to live in the new life of the “Power of the Cross” which generates, sanctifies, and consecrates us in the gift of Salvation.

The Lord from the Cross spoke to Francis of Assisi, he had a mystical experience, “Francis you see that my house is falling into ruin, go and rebuild my Church” In a real sense today we have a similar call from the Lord in regard to the Church’s grace of renewal and reform. It starts with a renewed experience of living in “the power of the Cross”. Francis felt that it was truly Christ crucified who had spoken to him. ( Omnibus, 903) His conversion was centered upon Christ on the cross. In Christ on the cross, Francis felt that the deepest and truest root of his choice to be a penitent was touched and made real. The suffering of Christ explained, illuminated, and justified all human suffering. Francis’ conversion fell within the context and sphere of the suffering Christ. It became an effective sign for all those who wanted to abandon their sinful way of life, in order to unite themselves with Christ and in Christ. Francis saw the suffering of Christ was as a superhuman value in the reality of human existence. It was the only power able to give meaning and sense to human suffering, to the point of attracting people to seek this suffering and to accept it freely in order to come closer to Christ and to be one with him in the Father. ( The high priestly prayer of Jesus in John’s Gospel, c. 17) What impressed Francis was the power of the Cross for all who wanted to call themselves Christian, and who wanted their whole life to be freed from living selfishly, as lived independent of God, that is a life not consciously lived in response to God. Therefore, we may want to embrace a life of penance: not specific actions but a conversion of heart, not simply just penitential practices, but a life lived “in God”.

The power of the Cross, the power, and life of the Resurrection, the power and life of the Holy Spirit: The Church’s Grace of Renewal and Reform. Now we need to look at the power and life of the Resurrection. A good approach to this task is to go right to Easter Sunday night: Appearance to the Disciples. “On the evening on the first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this he showed them his hands and side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Who sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” The power and life of the Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost was given to them when Jesus breathed on them, for Jesus, who had not gone to the Father when he met Mary Magdalen at the tomb, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not ascended to the Father”. (Jn. 20: 17) Jesus was now fully at the right hand of the Father; exercising his full Divine power of the Resurrection as the Glorified One. Breathing on them he powerfully commissioned them to bring this new life and power to others. He baptized them in the Holy Spirit. Now we turn to what scripture calls the Gentile Pentecost. Peter arrives at the household of Cornelius and begins to tell them about Jesus. Before he could finish, the Holy Spirit fell on the whole household and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. A short while later Peter is back in Jerusalem, and he is being criticized by some of the Jewish priests who had become converts. So he tells them the whole story, and at the end of it, they say, “we see! The Gentiles have been given “Life-giving Repentance”, just as we have!” (Acts 11:18)

The Power of the Cross

The power of the Cross, the gift of the power and life of the Resurrection, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit: The threefold empowerment as one experience of the Paschal Gift of the Church’s Grace of Renewal. It will be the task of all of us to design a dynamic program which may be called, “The Baptism in the Spirit of the Paschal Mystery.” This approach is verified by a prayerful reading of Scripture, and the core message of Vatican II, which message is the proclamation and centrality of Paschal Mystery.

It seems to me a teaching format which can bring Christians who want to receive or recommit to the Church’s Grace of the Renewal in a fresh manner would be necessary. This program would need to contain the substance of the threefold Paschal graces of empowerment. It would also necessarily be adapted to our busy post-modern society. This program would not follow the current lengthy adult education formats, but probably should be designed to a short seminar style, which could be done on a weekend or possibly a three-day approach. The teachings would not be long, maybe about 20 or 25 minutes with an opportunity for some discussion. At the end of the program prayer for commissioning and empowerment would be necessary. And some suggestions on how to keep the graces of the program while using some appropriate and useful tools for growth would be good. To start the teachings from scratch without some preparation would probably not be wise. Individuals should be ready and open to enter the program; therefore some means of preparation would be a good “jump start.” A life review session with a trained person, who could guide a person to necessary forgiveness or other matters of transformation would definitely be a real plus, but not absolutely necessary. Another possibility is that the person making the seminar would prepare by reading some appropriate scripture or some chosen devotional. What would be the content of the presentations? What basic themes would attract us to this renewal seminar?

Some possible themes for the presentations: We would probably need about nine presentations to do justice to the quality of a renewal seminar. This is where I would invite those who are good at designing faith formation programs. Would you be willing to share your thoughts and wisdom with us? Here are some themes to consider:

  1. What is the Paschal Mystery and its relationship to the Word of God?
  2. Who is the Person of Christ who lives and dwells within the Father’s children who have received water baptism?
  3. How do we want to understand the “power of the Cross”, “the new life and power of the Resurrection”, and “the complete empowerment of the Holy Spirit”?
  4. This is a season when God is being super generous with his mercy. What does it mean to know and follow Jesus in this special time of grace?
  5. As I grow in the love of the Lord, what kind of changes do I need to make in my personal life?
  6. What hopes and desires do I have for the future? What are my expectations?
  7. Once I have a clearer direction for my life, and I am living the Risen Life of Christ, what does it mean to share Jesus with others. Am I interested in small group sharing?
  8. How do I believe the Lord wants me to serve him in gratitude for what he has given to me.
  9. What is the mission in being a Christian?

The Fire Movement: John the Baptist told the people, “I am baptizing you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and FIRE. (Mt. 4: 11) If you have made any contact with “Evangelizing Catholic Culture Podcast. Com”, and may have an interest in small group fellowships this possibility will eventually be available through the podcast. What is the nature of a FIRE group?

FIRE

Fire by its nature has the ability and power to cause destruction; it consumes what it ignites and totally changes the object which it consumes. It is used in numerous ways in the Scriptures: In the story of the destruction of the towns of Sodom and Gamora it is used for destruction, because of the depravity of the citizens of those two towns; in view of God’s judgment it is seen as punishment. However, it is primarily used symbolically in the Word of God. For example, Moses wandering in the desert comes upon a bush burning without being consumed. He is warned not to come any closer because a voice told him that he is on holy ground. In this instance fire symbolically represents the active presence and energetic source of God’s holiness. In the book of Revelation the symbol is used as a purifying agent; it purifies from the dross of sin. Symbolically it will test our work of Christian perfection when the Lord comes, “ it will be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each ones work”(1 Cor.3: 13).   When viewing the work of fire internally in a human person, we see it illuminates the mind, in Ephesians 5:29 it is a light that illuminates and leads us to see the things that are pleasing to God. It illuminates the mind and energies the will as it gives strength to the soul. It warms the heart with the consolations of the Spirit. In relationship to personal holiness, it inflames us with love. And finally, at the Pentecost event tongues of fire appeared over the heads of the disciples. This fire represented the Pentecostal anointing which bestowed on each disciple all that Jesus won for us in the Paschal Event; the passion, death, resurrection, glorification and the sending of the Spirit by Jesus and the Father.

A good number of years back four individuals put together a ministry called FIRE MINISTRY. The reason the acronym “FIRE” was used was the fact that it defined the nature of the ministry. Drawing on the reality that the meaning of the word called upon all the rich meanings of the uses of the word in the Word of God, it identified a preaching ministry and each letter stood for a salient feature in the ministry itself: F stood for Faith, I stood for all the forms of Intercession, R stood for life-giving Repentance, E stood for Evangelization. The FIRE team would set locations in various places, in an auditorium, and schedule a FIRE event. Each individual would give an inspirational talk on the specific topic. It was very popular in the Renewal for several years, but for various reasons, it seems to have lost its attraction.   However, when the four topics are joined as one the word identifies a tremendous process of evangelical transformation, some would use the term Spirit-filled conversion. Taking the dynamic reality of this process of transformation, it is very possible and expedient to identify and apply this work of grace to a fellowship process. In other words, it is the intention of the “Evangelizing Catholic Culture Podcast” to encourage and work toward establishing a “movement” of FIRE Groups as units of growth to provide the development of this fourfold work of formation and transformation. This attempt would definitely be an example of the Podcast’s work of evangelization. “Therefore, we who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude, with which we should offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12: 29)

May We Pray!

Lord Jesus, to know You is eternal life. I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. I love You and I place my trust in You. I am sorry for all my sins and for withholding myself in any way from You. Please forgive me and heal any pain I have caused others. I forgive anyone who has hurt me, and I ask You to bless them. In Your Name Jesus, I renounce anything in my life that is not of  You that I have welcomed into my mind or heart. Wash me in mercy and fill me with Your Precious Blood and the Holy Spirit. Father, all of my need for love and affection is found in  Your embrace. May I never leave my home in Your heart again. By Your grace, I resolve to remain in Your shelter and abide in Your shade. Where You restore to me the joy of Your salvation. Amen. (Fr. John Horn)

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Oliva ofs says:

    How many have looked nostalgically at all the various renewal movements that have lost their “former glory”, those movements which sprang up organically by the Holy Spirit’s own powerful initiative moving in the hearts of God’s people?  
    I asked myself the question, “Why do you search among the dead for Him who is living?” (Luke 24:5) … who is ALIVE!

    I found what was said around time stamp 13.20 very significant:  “‘Stop holding on to me.’  What He was saying to her was that He had changed.  He isn’t the historical Jesus that she knew.  It was something more.  There was a substantial new change.  And she needed to change to relate to him in a new kind of way.  And He says, ‘Stop holding on to me’.”

    The Scripture that subsequently came to mind is:  Behold I do new things, and now they shall spring forth, verily you shall know them: I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. (Is. 43:19)

    The rhema, the spoken word, the revelation is “in the wilderness”, “in the desert”.  It is where the Holy Spirit is powerfully working.

  2. oliva ofs says:

    Speaking my mind would not be complete without thanking you for this episode, Fr. David. Thank you! 🙂

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