We Must Let God Be God
Charles WhiteheadI am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with the power from on high" (Luke 24:49). In obedience to these words of Jesus, the disciples stayed in the city, received the ‘power from on high’, and then preached the Gospel throughout the world. Nearly 2000 years later, in 1967, a group of Catholic students from Dickens University gathered and prayed for that same ‘power from on high’. What began then became known as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. As Charismatics, our distinguishing characteristic is that we believe the role of the Holy Spirit hasn’t changed, and that we can experience His presence, His power, and His gifts in the very same way they were experienced by those early disciples. In the words of John Paul II, "the emergence of the Charismatic Renewal following the Second Vatican Council was a particular gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church" (March 14, 1992). Today we need even more of the ‘power from on high’, so what contribution should the Charismatic Renewal be making to the life of the Church in 1998, the Year of the Holy Spirit?
A Renewal that’s CHARISMATIC
The Charismatic Renewal must remain a work of the Holy Spirit and not become a human movement or a bureaucratic structure. History has seen too many moves of the Spirit fail when the prophetic vision died and over-organization strangled their life. The Lord doesn’t baptize systems or programs in His Spirit, He baptizes men and women. We must let God be God and do things His way, not ours. For all of us there is a danger of developing an excessive desire to be accepted and approved—such a desire may lead us to stop doing those things which cause others to feel uncomfortable. I am, of course, thinking of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, prophesying, praising God powerfully, and praying for healing. We all want to be accepted, but if it means conforming to man’s opinions, then it’s a price that must not be paid. To do so would be to blunt the cutting edge of the Holy Spirit’s work and to reject His gifts. Perhaps in the year of the Holy Spirit we need to be reminded that God’s gift to His Church is a Charismatic Renewal.
A Renewal that’s PROPHETIC
The Charismatic Renewal is not a fringe organization. At its heart is the baptism in the Holy Spirit, through which our lives are transformed and we are called to a new commitment to Jesus Christ and His Church. As part of our loving service in the Church we are called to be prophetic and to speak out when things are wrong. It isn’t always going to make us popular, but because we love the Church we have a duty to contribute our gifts for her up-building. There is a clear prophetic dimension to the Charismatic Renewal—let’s make sure we’re not suppressing it.
A Renewal that’s COURAGEOUS
To walk in the Spirit is to know that in everything we are to live not out of ourselves and our own efforts, but out of the Father’s provision of life, love, and power in Jesus His Son. This demands courage. It means turning from self to God, from works to faith, from law to Spirit. We know we are called to live a life of faith according to our Catholic tradition, but this must be done in the freedom of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5). We each have our own particular gifts and areas of service, and we need the courage to stay faithful to our charismatic calling. Here are the main things I believe we’re called to do: teach and minister the baptism in the Holy Spirit, explain and use the gifts of the Holy Spirit, be prophetic in the Church and in the world, make disciples, train leaders, and build community in our parishes, be engaged in intercession and spiritual warfare, pray and work for unity and justice.
A Renewal that PRAYS
If we want to see God move in power we must be willing to dedicate ourselves to prayer. No Christian’s spiritual life will rise and stay above the level of their prayer life. In the same way, the Church’s corporate prayer life will never be greater than the personal prayer lives of its members. So let’s commit ourselves to praying with the whole Church for a new outpouring of the ‘power from on high’ in 1998, the Year of the Holy Spirit. We need a Renewal that prays—what a challenge—but what an opportunity! Come Holy Spirit!
Charles Whitehead resides in Gerrards Cross outside London. He is a member of the Bishop’s Council for Youth, Chairman of the English National Service Committee, and President of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services Council, Vatican City. ©1998 ICCRS Newsletter, Vatican City. Used by subscription.