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(Part 14)


October 30, 2013
Today’s reading: Romans 8:26-30

We are empowered to witness. This is basically because of two realities. One, God has His plan for our lives. We “are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28b). If we allow ourselves to be formed and used by God, then that will include the empowerment needed to carry out His will in our lives. Two, the Holy Spirit acts in and through us. The Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier and the agent of evangelization, and is the One who shows us the way to go, in both the internal dimension of personal holiness and the external dimension of service. To do so, the Spirit empowers us to witness to Jesus as He intends, witnessing silently through personal sanctification and verbally through proclamation of the gospel.

Our destiny, including empowerment to witness, is based on God’s plan and intent. We are created in the image and likeness of God, and we are to be other Christs. “For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Rom 8:29). Jesus is our brother and also our Master, who sends us forth to evangelize.

Based on God’s plan and intent, everything else follows. “And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:30). Because of our destiny, God called us (using someone else who evangelized us). Thus we met Christ. As we accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, as we began to walk along the path of holiness, we are justified. We are made right with God, restored to our relationship with our Father. Thus we live Christ. A major part of living Christ is sharing Christ, proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus to many others, thus helping bring them to salvation. Living according to God’s plan and Jesus’ way brings us ultimately to glory, as we enter into our eternal reward in heaven, forever in the company of God.

So we are empowered to witness because it is according to God’s plan. It is our destiny. Then also, since we are doing divine work, we need a strength and power beyond ourselves. Thus “the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness” (Rom 8:26a). But we need to know how the Spirit works, so as to be able to adapt ourselves accordingly. Indeed, as part of understanding what is the New Evangelization, we need to return to God’s original “methodology”[1] for mission, when the Spirit was poured out on the disciples at Pentecost, triggering the massive worldwide evangelization work of the newly-established Church.

The Holy Spirit is recognized as the agent of evangelization, but the work of the Spirit and the “how to” according to the Spirit are not well known. For example, spiritual gifts are crucial for the life and mission of the Church. But most Catholics know spiritual gifts as the 7 gifts of Isaiah 11:2-3a (wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord). These gifts are indeed very important, and necessary for personal sanctification. However, the gifts associated with evangelization are the 9 gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 (there are additional gifts in other lists). These are charismatic gifts, intended for building up and equipping the body to do the work of evangelization and mission.

Take the gift of tongues for example. How many Catholics, including clerics, know about tongues?[2] How many speak about tongues (much less speak in tongues)? How many use tongues in one’s life and evangelistic work? Hardly any, except in charismatic renewal circles. But tongues is a crucial gift. One who speaks in a tongue does not speak to human beings but to God (1 Cor 14:2a). When one prays in a tongue, it is his spirit and not his mind that prays (1 Cor 14:14). Since we are human flesh trying to connect in prayer to the divine, that is very difficult. But when we pray in tongues, it is the spirit within us that has been placed by God that connects to God--spirit to Spirit, rather than flesh to Spirit.

Why are Christians weak in their faith, even as they strive to pray? This is because “we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom 8:26b). We only ask for things, we only pray when we are in trouble, we use prayer to get God to put His stamp of approval on what we want. But when we pray in tongues, “the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.” (Rom 8:26c). Remember that with tongues, our minds are unproductive but our spirit (the Spirit) is at prayer. So what happens? “And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.” (Rom 8:27). We are able to pray not according to our will but according to God’s will! It is only God who knows our hearts. And it is only the Holy Spirit who intercedes fully in accordance with God’s will. What we pray for (what the Spirit prays for as we pray in tongues) is exactly what God wills. That becomes a perfect prayer. Thus our prayers will surely be granted. We would truly be praying in the name of Jesus, with the Father’s promise that whatever we pray for will be granted.

Just be forewarned. You might not necessarily like what the Spirit will intercede for on your behalf. You should like it of course, since it is according to the will of God, and is the best for you. But just be ready. You may be praying for self-emptying, for embracing the cross, for total self-giving, for martyrdom.

But be not afraid. “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28). I know you love God, or you are at least trying your best to love God. Now you have already been called according to God’s purpose. This is why you are in CFC-FFL, an evangelistic and missionary community, committed to holiness and Christian perfection. If you allow God to work in and through you, if you allow God’s purposes to be fulfilled in you, then everything will work for your good. What an assurance!

So there you are. God has provided what we need to be empowered to witness. Now go, and onward to the New Evangelization.

* * *

[1] Read the section on the Holy Spirit in the book “The New Evangelization--A Work of the Divine Family.
[2] It is my conviction that for the New Evangelization to flourish, priests too need to undergo an appropriate renewal program that includes baptism in the Spirit.

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