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(Part 238)


May 20, 2018
Pentecost Sunday

Today’s readings:
Acts 2:1-11
Psalm 104:1,24,29-30,31,34
1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13
John 20:19-23

The New Evangelization is the call of the Holy Spirit to the Church in this third millennium. And since the Spirit is the agent of evangelization, then the Spirit is central to the work of evangelization and key to the effectiveness of God’s workers. The Spirit came upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost, which we celebrate today. What happened was that the disciples were empowered and emboldened to do the work of worldwide evangelization.

What is evangelization about? It is about continuing with the work of Jesus to bring people to salvation in him. After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (Jn 20:21). God sent Jesus to redeem the world. Jesus then sends us to proclaim his salvation, so that in believing, people might appropriate such salvation in their lives. As this is divine work, it cannot be done on mere human ability or strength. So Jesus empowered them by giving them the Holy Spirit. “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit.’” (Jn 20:22).

Today the call is to the New Evangelization. The key to effectiveness is still the same. It is the Holy Spirit, and all that comes with the Holy Spirit. The context is still the same, that of Pentecost and the life of the early Church. To go about the work of New Evangelization, we must have the Spirit of Pentecost.What happened on the day of Pentecost? The disciples “were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” (Acts 2:4). Peter then preached a sermon and 3,000 people were converted. From then on, the Church grew very rapidly and expanded territorially.
Now the work of evangelization is not just done by individuals but is done collectively as Church. To be effective in her work, there must be oneness and unity. Thus Paul emphasizes being one body. “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.” (1 Cor 12:12). The Church is the body of Christ. Now to that one body is given the one Spirit. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:13).

Our Church is a missionary Church. And the members of the Church are all given spiritual gifts which equip them to evangelize effectively. “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit …. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” (1 Cor 12:4a,7). So each member of the Church is given a gift. Now here is my difficulty with this reading today. It emphasizes the one Spirit for the one Church and mentions spiritual gifts. But it omits the listing of such spiritual gifts (see 1 Cor 12:8-10).

Paul says, “Now in regard to spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware.” (1 Cor 12:1). But with this reading, on this crucial feast of Pentecost, the spiritual gifts associated with the Spirit of Pentecost are not cited! The people of God then continue to be unaware of these spiritual gifts, crucial for the work of evangelization.

In fact, today many Catholics, priests and lay alike, will readily cite spiritual gifts as the 7 gifts given at Baptism and Confirmation (see the list in Isaiah 11:2-3a). These are gifts for personal sanctification. But the gifts given by the Spirit to the members of the body which are intended for the work of evangelization are the 9 gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 (v.8-10 as well as v.28).Christians are intended by God to be holy warriors. The 7 gifts enable them to be holy. But it is the 9 gifts that equip them for spiritual warfare as they do the work of evangelization. How can God’s people, holy as they might be, go off to war without being equipped? They will be decimated!

When we read through the book of Acts, describing the life and mission of the early Church, we see that when people were filled with the Holy Spirit, they often prophesied and spoke in tongues (see Acts 2:4,10:45-46,19:6). The gifts of the Spirit were being poured out on them, and they then participated in the work of evangelization.

Today many of God’s people, including clerics, do not know about these spiritual gifts. Today the Church, aside from those in the charismatic renewal, have largely lost these gifts. No wonder the Church is losing Catholics by the day rather than bringing in more souls into the body! The early disciples did signs and wonders in ministry. There were healings and mighty deeds. Today these still happen, but very sparsely. And when was the last time a prophet spoke in Church? Do we hear tongues in Church worship?
The New Evangelization is about going back to the basic foundations of an effective work of proclaiming the gospel. It is still the same Holy Spirit, and the same spiritual gifts are still the key to being equipped to do such effective work.

* * *

[To appreciate spiritual gifts and the necessity of these gifts for evangelization, please read my book, “Renewing the Face of the Earth.” Like Paul, I too do not want you to be unaware.]

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