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A quickness of the Spirit

Among leaders in CCR around the world, there is a shared sense that we are now entering into a new season of the Spirit.

However, it is perhaps more accurate to say there is a new unfolding of the season of the Spirit that began at the turn of the 20th Century.

At the end of the 19th Century Blessed Elena Guerra, an Italian Sister of the Oblates of the Holy Spirit, began correspondence with Pope Leo XIII.

This led to him, among other things, introducing the Novena of the Holy Spirit to be prayed from Ascension to Pentecost in perpetuity.

He stated that the intention of the novena should be for the 'reunion of Christendom'.

Then on January 1st 1901 Pope Leo XIII prayed the "Veni Creator Spiritus" and consecrated the 20th Century to the Holy Spirit.

Around the same time in Topeka Kansas, a holiness teacher Charles Fox Parham laid hands on one of his students Agnes Ozman and prayed for her to receive baptism in the Holy Spirit.

This was the precursor of the Azusa Street revival in1906 which is usually cited as being the birth of what we now know as the Pentecostal movement. CCR was birthed in a current of ecumenical grace, and what began as a small stream has gradually been gathering momentum.

The years following Vatican II proved to be fertile ground for new moves of the Spirit to emerge.

So many of us can testify to the wonders that we have seen and experienced since the birth of CCR in 1967.

However, as we approach our Golden Jubilee in 2017, there seems to be a 'quickening of the Spirit'.

The Lord is reminding us to strengthen some of our basic foundations such as being attentive to the Word of God, being nourished by the Sacraments and growing in the charisms; and He is sending us forth in mission with a new urgency.

I was privileged to be in St Peter's Square in 2013 for Pope Francis' first celebration of Pentecost.

Through the simplicity of his now familiar engaging preaching style, even with intermittent translation, we were all able to go away with three points to ponder linked with the working of the Holy Spirit: newness, harmony and mission.

Be ready for the new things of the Holy Spirit

Many of us have been living the 'life in the Spirit' for several years and perhaps we have become accustomed to seeing the Lord at work in our midst.

Unfortunately, this may lead us to become complacent or to expect the Lord to do more of the same things that we have seen Him do in the past.

However, God is on the move and He needs us to respond in new ways to the new invitations of His Spirit.

At Pentecost 2013, Pope Francis reminded us that: 'newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control.

Often we follow the Lord, we accept Him but only up to a certain point. It is hard to abandon ourselves to Him with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives in our every decision.

We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to His own'.

Whether we are pioneers in the Renewal, long-haulers or more recent pilgrims the invitation is always one of surrender and abandonment.

We need to constantly turn away from the fear that seeks to hold us in captivity.

The antidote to fear is love, so let's immerse ourselves in the truth that 'the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit' (Rom 5:5). It is only when we continue to be converted by God's love that we will we be ready to move in new ways, into new places as the Lord leads.

Orchestral Harmony

Pope Francis deliberately used the word harmony rather than unity because it highlights the diversity of charisms and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

He said, 'the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which does not mean uniformity.

In the Church it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony'.

He returned to this theme at the Convocation in Rome, June 2014, saying; 'when I think of you charismatics, the image of the Church herself comes to me, but in a particular way: I think of a great orchestra, where every instrument is different from another and the voices are also different, but all are necessary for the harmony of the music'.

In the CCR there are many diverse expressions - communities, prayer groups, initiatives and ministries etc.

Thankfully, in our country we have not seen too much dis-unity in the Renewal. However, there is at times a lack of cohesion, so we are not always a strong orchestra but small groups or ensembles. Proverbs 18:20 reminds us that, 'humility goes before honour'.

This season calls for humility where we each take our place, but we work with synergy by making space for each other and welcoming new people.

Maybe we need to let go of some of 'our things' to make room for the new things of the Lord.

We need to be prepared to work in different ways as the Spirit leads. Now is also the time to lay aside any rivalry or competition.

The music score is written in heaven and we have the responsibility to work in the harmony of the Spirit.

A Community of Disciples on Mission

In 2007 Cardinal Bergolio was very instrumental in the composition of the 'Aparecida document' from the 5th General Conference of the Bishops in Latin America.

This gave new impulse and vigour to the continental mission in and from Latin America.

A key theme was 'missionary discipleship'. This is the perspective underlining Evangelii Gaudium and Pope Francis' reflections on mission.

Noting that it is the Paraclete and Comforter Spirit who gives us the courage to go out into the streets of the world. Pope Francis asked the crowds gathered at Pentecost 2013, a now familiar question.

'Do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves and on our group or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission?'

The grace of the baptism in the Holy Spirit should naturally lead us into missionary discipleship.

As disciples of Jesus we have been given the great commission, (Matt 28) 'Go, make, preach, teach.'

However, in order to reach people in our increasingly secular society we need the 'supernatural power' of the second Pentecost of Acts 4:29.

The disciples were being threatened and they courageously prayed for more of the Holy Spirit, 'help your servants to proclaim your message with all boldness by stretching out your hand to heal and to work miracles and marvels through the name of your holy servant Jesus.'

Let's pray for more of the expectant faith of the early Church and believe that we are entering the season of a new evangelisation with a harvest that the world has not yet seen.


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