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FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
 
 

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
(Part 82)

BAPTISM IN THE SPIRIT

June 2, 2014
Today’s reading: Acts 19:1-8


As Catholics, most of us were baptized sacramentally when we were infants. We needed godparents to make our baptismal commitment on our behalf. When we are thus baptized, our original sin is cleansed and we receive the Holy Spirit, and we become a child of God. We are “baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” (v.4). Through godparents, we accept Jesus, and are “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (v.5). There is a real sense by which we call sacramental baptism as baptism in the Spirit.

However, most baptized Catholics eventually, starting with their teen-age years, do not live out truly Christian lives. They grow up not knowing the Spirit of God. They live their lives not experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit. If people were to ask, “Did you receive the holy Spirit when you became believers?” (v.2a), they can almost say, “We have never even heard that there is a holy Spirit.” (v.2b). There is a crucial need to have an adult response of faith and re-commitment to Christ.

Empowerment for true Christian living comes with repentance, an adult assent of faith, acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord, and receiving a renewed infilling of the Holy Spirit. This is what we understand to be the adult experience of baptism in the Spirit. “And when Paul laid his hands on them, the holy Spirit came upon them” (v.6a). Often the renewed infilling of the Spirit comes with charismatic manifestations. Those in Ephesus “spoke in tongues and prophesied.” (v.6b). These spiritual gifts are gifts for service and for building community for the purpose of the work of evangelization.

With the Holy Spirit comes empowerment for living the Christian life and for the mission of proclaiming the gospel. The Holy Spirit enables us to live Christ and to share Christ. It is empowerment to witness, the silent witness of a life in Christ, and the verbal witness of sharing about Christ in our life.

For the New Evangelization, Catholics need to understand the importance and work of the Holy Spirit. The question today is no longer “Did you receive the holy Spirit when you became believers?” (v.2a), but rather, “Do you understand the work of the Holy Spirit for you as a believer (disciple)?” Most Catholics do not. Catholics need to have the adult experience of baptism in the Holy Spirit, and they need to understand the accompanying provision of spiritual gifts (not the traditional 7 gifts of the Spirit, but the charismatic gifts, the prime list of which is in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10).

Baptized in the Spirit, empowered to witness, we can then, like Paul, speak “boldly with persuasive arguments about the kingdom of God.” (v.8).

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