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FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
 
 

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
(Part 250)

NOT UNDERSTANDING THE NEW EVANGELIZATION – 3

Pentecost Sunday
June 9, 2019

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


Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost. This is when the Holy Spirit, according to the promise of the Father, was poured out on the disciples. It was an exciting event. “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” (Acts 2:2-4). The infilling of the Spirit was empowerment for mission, and we know that Peter went on to preach one sermon where 3,000 people were converted.

The New Evangelization is a prophetic call of the Holy Spirit especially for these times, where the world is deeply enveloped in darkness and sin. The world, including our Church, is being overwhelmed by a tsunami of evil. Thus God has launched His counter-move. It is the New Evangelization. But the problem is that many Catholics have not heard about this call, and many, including clerics, do not understand what this call is all about.

First, people do not understand that the peace they long for (absence of strife and presence of right relationships among humankind) can only be found in Christ. There has to be conversion of heart, if the world is to be rid of immorality, poverty, criminality, corruption, terrorism, environmental degradation. How will this conversion of heart happen? Through the work of evangelization, which leads people to meet and know Christ, and start to live Christ. Thus Jesus, who won salvation (which is the fullness of the experience of peace) for all, commissioned his disciples, and thus all of us, to continue with his divine work. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (Jn 20:21).

Second, people do not understand that this commission can only be effectively accomplished, not by our own power, since it is divine work, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, “when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit.’” (Jn 20:22). But many Catholics have only heard of the Holy Spirit but do not really know Him or His role. But the Holy Spirit is the agent of evangelization, “and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the holy Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:3b). And in order for us to be effective witnesses, we need to be filled with and empowered by the Spirit. This happens through an adult experience of baptism in the Spirit.

Third, with the infilling of the Holy Spirit come spiritual gifts. Each one is given a gift. “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” (1 Cor 12:7). These gifts are necessary equipment for members of the Church so that the whole Church can do an effective work of evangelization. But not only do many Catholics not understand and know what these spiritual gifts are, today they are being marginalized. See for example the second reading for today. The 9 gifts of the Spirit (in 1 Cor 12:8-11) are omitted! But after speaking about the gifts, the Christian community as one body with many parts is described. Then there is another set of gifts given (see 1 Cor 12:27-30). The fact that Paul wedges the Christian community in between the two sets of gifts emphasize how these gifts are crucial to the proper functioning of the body, and to its accomplishment of its evangelistic mission. If Catholics today do not know these gifts, how can they exercise them? If they don’t exercise them, how can the mission of the Church be accomplished? Is this one reason why our Church, busy with so many different things but not so much mission, is so badly situated today?

Fourth, there seems to be a distaste among many prelates and clerics on the charismatic dimension of our faith. Charismatics are routinely derided as Pentecostals. Some clerics are insisting that our programs (such as the CLS or LCS) not contain the charismatic dimension. This is a failure in understanding the work of the Spirit. Indeed, on that day of Pentecost, the pilgrims in Jerusalem were astounded and bewildered when they heard “them speaking in our own tongues of the might acts of God.” (Acts 2:11b). Pentecost belongs to our Church. Tongues is a manifestation of the Spirit. And evangelization can only be done in the Spirit of Pentecost. Jesus imparted His spirit to His people so that they might continue with His divine work. “Send forth your spirit, they are created and you renew the face of the earth.” (Ps 104:30). The ever-creative Spirit is being poured out anew on God’s people today, in the call to the New Evangelization.

So it is unfortunate that many Catholics do not understand the New Evangelization and its being rooted on Pentecost. They say to one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12b). But rather than being led to a conversion of their thinking and vision, they say, “scoffing, ‘They have had too much new wine.’” (Acts 2:13). But what irony! Indeed we are being given the new wine of the Spirit. We can never have too much of this new wine! But this wine needs to be put in new wineskins. This is LCSC.

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