The call for Evangelisation: Role of the Charismatic Renewal …Part 1

By Elizabeth Elive

The Church’s call for a New Evangelisation has elicited numerous responses in parishes and the media. There has been significant development in the areas of catechesis and formation as well. Among Church groups and movements involved in this mission can be named the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR). But the search for means of authentic evangelisation remains ongoing. The onus now lies on everyone to be involved and to contribute. This essay explores the specific contribution CCR is making towards evangelisation. It also looks tries to understand how the charism of CCR can be utilised in greater measure to enhance the work of evangelisation in todays’ church.

In this essay I will start by looking at the meaning of culture and how this concept is tied to evangelisation and then I will move on to define Evangelisation itself before introducing the charism of the CCR, which the Church has received as a gift. The question is how to exploit this gift to foster Evangelisation.

The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes (GS) observes that every person arrives at “full humanity only through culture, that is through the cultivation of the goods and values of nature” (GS 53). Pope John Paul Il (JPII) explains this concept further when he says that it is,

“…an effort to ponder the mystery of the world and in particular of the human person: it is a way
of giving expression to the transcendent dimension of human life. The heart of every culture is its
approach to the greatest mystery: the mystery of God”

JPII 11 95 web page 1 (wpl)

Culture: Culture is generally described as, all those impressions that form your world view. The Pope is emphasising that the human person is not just formed by what is done in our Parliament, or in our courts or schools. It goes deeper, it touches on the greatest mystery, which is the Mystery of God. Culture should, therefore, endeavour to enable every individual to ask searching questions such as, “Who am l? Where did I come from? Where I’m I going to”. Culture should lead to the development of the whole person, and not just some parts of you. Look around and see the negative influence of a culture without reference to God which our Western Culture tries to propagate. Money, power and pleasure do not satisfy the innate hunger of the human heart for the Good. There is a deep search for something more meaningful.

A culture that holds up greed as the ultimate value of the human person is far off the target. We have systems that enslave. If this is what culture teaches us, it is very difficult ground for evangelisation.

Evangelisation (I describe it here briefly as the mission by which the Gospel is brought to all people), must seek its place within the “heart of every culture”. It must become “the leading force in everybody’s “approach to the mystery of God” says (JPII 1995). Today’s society experiences changes that significantly influence people’s spiritual outlook. Among these are what GS calls a “mounting increase in the sense of autonomy as well as of responsibility” (GS 55).

While this sense of autonomy is a positive trend in itself, it can also affect people’s attitude towards religion negatively. Autonomy can create a sense of independence of God and the Church, by which its values stand in opposition to religious values. One of Turner’s definitions of independence has it as:

“Choosing to empower ourselves with the information to individually make up our own minds” (Turner
2007, wp2)

The exercise of faith, however, requires an enlightened authority to guide the process of “making up our minds” Any form of independence that puts a wedge between the attentive listening to God, and carrying out his will contributes to what Paul VI calls “the split between the Gospel and Culture” (Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN) 20).

Jack Domitian, observes that “the world we live in at present is interested in God, but not in the intricacies of our faith” (201 0: 46). If so, Pope Paul VI expressed confidence that the Gospel can make headway into contemporary man and woman’s life, if methods of evangelisation are revised to adequately address contemporary culture (see EN 3) . The Pope supports the notion that the Christian message has a unique capacity to answer the human persons’ questions (EN 3), a notion strongly supported by Pope Benedict XVI who said, “to evangelise means to show the path to man’s happiness” and that is Jesus Christ (2000: Introduction (Intr.)).

Evangelisation – Constitutive Elements
Discussing evangelisation immediately leads to the question, “which ecclesial activities constitute this mission (ministry)?”. It is worth noting that according to Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN) some elements of “the Church’s evangelising activity are so important” that:

“There will be a tendency simply to identify them with evangelization. Thus, it has been possible to define evangelization in terms of proclaiming Christ to those who do not know Him, of preaching, of catechising, of conferring Baptism and the other sacraments…” (EN 17)

According to this description, “spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ” (Reilly (editor) 1 995: 9) involves proclamation, preaching, catechesis, as well as conferring of the Sacraments. The General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) upholds this teaching. It states that the “Church transmits the faith which she herself lives” (GDC 78). According to Catholic Agency to Support Evangelisation (CASE), several groups are presently engaged in evangelisation (CASE wp4), but they all contribute through different services such as, parish mission, catechesis, ministry to couples, etc. This demonstrates the richness of evangelization.

However, there is a tendency today to say that the Catholic Church is moving “from an inward looking, maintenance model of Church to an outward looking evangelistic one” (Collin 2007: 27). Be this as it may, evangelisation has always incorporated both models. The Church evangelises when its members are being catechised; it also evangelises when these members are engaged in mission, proclaiming the Word of God to others (see GDC 79). It is a matter of getting the right balance.

The New Evangelisation and the advent of the Charismatic Renewal:
JPII introduced the notion of a New Evangelisation for today. What did he mean? (see Redemptoris Missio (RM3.) The way we evangelise will be new “in its ardour, new in its methods, and new in its means of expression” (Church in America (CA) 66). This must be true of evangelisation as Christian formation, as well as proclamation of the Word of God to outsiders. It reminds us of Pope Paul VI’s statement about the Charismatic Renewal when he greeted it as a new opportunity for the Church. It certainly carried ardour and new expression. Is it still the same today? This is a question we must ask ourselves candidly.

The Church’s mission is one — Jesus’ mission. That is our mission. For this reason, JPII insists that:

“the vital core of the new evangelisation must be a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ” (CA 66)

Role of the Holy Spirit in Evangelisation
The Pope highlights the fact that the Holy Spirit who animated Christ, is ‘the principal agent of the new evangelisation” (Tertio Millenio Adveniente (T MA) 45). The Spirit instructs and is Himself the grace by which we “rekindle in ourselves the impetus of the beginnings and allow ourselves to be filled with the ardour of the apostolic preaching” (Novo Millennio Ineunte (NMI) 40). St Peter’s powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-42), which we shall look at again more detaily, clearly illustrates the intrinsic link between the outpouring of the Holy Spirit they had just experienced and the manifestation of God’s power that followed: Being therefore exulted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear (Acts 2:33)…God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified (2:36)…There were added that day about three thousand souls (2:41)

The contribution of LSS lies in this awareness of the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives for the effective proclamation of the message of salvation. The movement aims at enabling a return to a total openness to the Holy Spirit.

Evangelisation as Proclamation – The Kerygma
Although evangelisation constitutes several ministries (see EN 1 7), the initial proclamation always precedes every other action. The Charismatic Renewal’s Life in the Spirit Seminar (LSS) has been used effectively for small children too, but it was originally developed for adult Christians, who desire a new beginning in their spiritual life. Thus, LSS assumes the aspect of an initial proclamation of the Good News. It is fitting, therefore, to study LSS as a method of evangelisation against the background of the proclamation of the Good News at Pentecost (the kerygma). Some authors, however, find making “a parallel between the reception of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the Baptism in the Spirit an invention” (see Charismatic Heresy (CH) wp6). Nevertheless these do not represent a majority view. Pope Benedict XVI (as Cardinal Ratzinger) wrote:

“At the heart of a world imbued with a rationalistic scepticism, a new experience of the Holy
Spirit suddenly burst forth. And since then, that experience has assumed a breadth of a
worldwide Renewal movement”
(Donovan (undated) Wp7).)

The Kerygma – Characteristics
The second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, quoted above, gives us this graphic description of Peter’s address to the people on the day of Pentecost:

“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven and, with a loud voice, addressed them, ‘Fellow Jews and all
foreigners now staying in Jerusalem, listen to what I have to say… This Messiah is Jesus and we are
witnesses that God raised him to life. He has been exalted at God’s right side and the Father has
entrusted the Holy Spirit to Him; this Spirit he has just poured upon us as you see and hear” ( Acts
2:14, 32-33)

Peter’s message comes across as a personal testimony of the Apostle’s experience. It is delivered with boldness and conviction. Peter and the Eleven were witnesses to the Risen Lord, exalted by God and entrusted with the Holy Spirit, that had been poured out upon them. The message came across as authentic witnessing, so it drew a response. They were “deeply moved” and they asked what to do (Acts 2: 37).

The boldness of these hitherto timid people, demonstrated the presence of a new power at work in them. Perhaps the challenge today is to deliver the Good News with conviction. “Ardour” is a quality of the Holy Spirit, a flame burning within and urging the evangeliser to speak out in spite of him/herself (See Jer. 20: 9). It takes away the focus from oneself and places it on God. It is not presenting oneself as a great scholar who knows it all. Rather, it is proclaiming your personal encounter with the Risen Lord, with a resounding “Alleluia!”.

Here I would like to pause briefly to mention that, testimony is not my story, but the reality of what I have experienced and how it is ruling my life now. Yes, on that day, a group of Christians were praying and you joined them and you fell down in adoration. What happened to your life since then? How has that changed the course of your Christian life? This is the testimony we need. Peter’s response to his listener’s question “what shall we do?” was:

“Each of you must repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins
may be forgiven. Then you will receive the Holy Spirit. For the Promise of God was made
to you and your children, and to all the other nations whom our God calls for himself”
(Acts 2: 37- 39)

Peter shows here that repentance (metanoia) is required for living the life of the Spirit. The proclamation of the word elicits a change of heart and an openness to the Holy Spirit. Commenting on this passage, Schlink points to the fact that anyone “empowered by the Holy Spirit” who witnesses to Jesus, necessarily proclaims the call to repentance” – a change of heart (1969:22). He explains:

“The message which declares sin to be sin, reprimanding those who perpetrate it, does not
miss its mark. It hits the target of the human heart. None leaves the scene of this kind of
preaching untouched, for it is inspired by the power and truth of the Holy Spirit” (1969:24)

Here is the point to look briefly at St Paul When we meet the Lord, a conversion takes place. Peter’s listeners were so touched by the power of the Word of the Lord, that they were confronted with the challenge to do something. It was a moment of repentance. The only way is to repent — turn back to him, be converted, be baptised and receive the Holy Spirit, as Peter told them. When Zacchaeus (Lk 19, 1-10) met Jesus, his response was a sudden outburst of repentance. I will change my life and if I have defrauded anyone, I will make a fourfold restitution. Conversion, which is called in Greek metanoia, is at the heart of the proclamation of the Good news of Jesus, for you who proclaim it and for the one to whom you proclaim it. Conversion is a transformation of the heart and mind. Metanoia — Metanoia, is “a transformative change of heart; a spiritual conversion.” (wikipeadia) The conversion of St Paul resulted from the encounter with the Risen Lord, who identified Himself with His followers. Acts 9:1-19 (see also Acts 22:6-21; Acts 26: 1 2-18)

For St Paul, it resulted in the whole-hearted rededication of his life to God and his people. In a symbolic way, the light of Truth blinded Paul and he fell to the ground. Then he rose from the ground and was led away. He ate no food and saw nothing for three days while the transforming grace of repentance was shaping his understanding. In the silence of that room, he handed over his ideas to the Truth, the Eternal Word of God, Jesus Christ. Paul aptly describes the change that took place in him later in his ministry in these words:

For I through the law, died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with
Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the
flesh. I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set
aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
(Gal 19-21)

As for Paul that day, he learnt that the Law had a “telos” – a goal. It led to the encounter with Him who saved. Hitherto, he would preach faith in him as the way to salvation. He learnt that all men and women who believed were hitherto subsumed into the very life of God, and became the very body of his beloved Son. He learnt that Jesus was not the master who stood out there handing small favours to people, but he was the vine and we, the branches; one Body, one Spirit with him. The mystery of Redemption became clearer and clearer to Paul in his ministry as he recognised that Body of Christ, the people who through Baptism in Jesus’ death Suffering, died with him and rose again with him. This Redemption was not about what you did but about the totality of God’s love drawing you into himself. I no longer call you servants but friends, I identify myself with you, I love you with a love that is in the Godhead alone. Everyone is welcome, henceforth these people, in your office, on the underground, dressed strangely, are all God’s children. They are all called. You must know this. The lesson Paul learnt that day remained ingrained in his heart and it coloured his whole perspective of the nature of the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ. Its mission is to proclaim to the whole world that we are no longer slaves to sin, we are children of God.

According to Fr Pat Collins, the modern world has lost a sense of sin (2007: 27) and of estrangement. A commentary on this passage in the Christian Community Bible holds that in those days “to repent and to be converted meant to share the life of the infant Church” (1 995: (New Testament (NT)) 238). The author holds that even though the Church did not seem opposed to Judaism, it was seen “as a centre of more authentic life” (1 995: (NT) 238). However, the biblical notion of metanoia, translated “repentance” denotes:

“A change of mind, an reorientation, a fundamental transformation of outlook, of an individual’s vision
of the world and of her/himself, and a new way of loving others and the Universe” (Wikipedia wp8)

It is not the result of guilt but of an enlightened grasp of the unfortunate situation of separation from God brought
about by one’s sin (see Wikipedia wp8).

Repentance is the initial step in the process of developing a new relationship with God in the Holy Spirit. Hixon says repentance is “the preface to conversion as it comes to grips with the parts of my personal story that hang in limbo…” (Hixon 1997: 30). Repentance recognises one’s state of estrangement; conversion is the ongoing effort at transformation. He asserts:

An incarnational faith transforms our life. This first redoing of life is called initial conversion.
In a sense conversion is always initial in that transformation is self-defined as ‘forming over,’
a recreation, a new birth” (1997: 28).

Because conversion is ongoing Hixon says, it “precludes a smug consumeristic “‘l have, you don’t’ have’ attitude about the faith” (1 997: 28). In Peter’s message that God’s promise is for his listeners (Acts 2: 39) the challenge to repent is clear. It calls for a roundabout turn to God (repentance) and opens up new vistas, whereby one can asserts like Paul, that “whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ” (Phil 3:7).

Kerygmatic preaching was characteristic in the primitive Church, and was distinguished from the Didache, a more formal teaching and instruction. Williams makes this distinction between Kerygma and Didache:

Kerygma means the initial gospel proclamation designed to introduce a person to Christ and
to appeal for conversion. Didache refers to the doctrinal and ethical teaching of the church
into which a person needs to be grounded once they become a Christian…there is overlap in
the use of these terms” (Williams wp9).

However, some scholars hold that Jesus’ whole ministry can be seen as kerygmatic preaching – “a proclamation addressed not to the theoretical reason, but to the hearer as a self” (Wikipedia wpl 0).

The Charismatic Renewal (CCR)
Charism, Characteristics, Mission
The beginning of the Movement we now refer to as Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR), coincided with an experience during a student retreat at the Duquesne University in 1967, which the participants recognised as an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This experience now called, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (BHS) has become a common occurrence in CCR all over the World. Clerk says of those who have received the BHS:

..They have felt the presence of the Spirit in them; the Scriptures have come to life. They feel a
new guidance of the Spirit…” (1970: 26)

For Charles Whitehead the Movement’s “objectives” are those of the Church: “conversion, sanctification and salvation of every single human being” (2000: 45) and its “distinctive characteristic is that “the role of the Holy Spirit has not changed since the day of Pentecost” (2000: 45). There is here an echo of Peter’s message (Acts 2: 37- 39). That experience is being felt in a new way. Many people emphasise the newness of this experience, while others hold that it is firmly rooted in baptismal grace. Whitehead strikes a middle course when says the Renewal:

Is a personal experience of the presence of the power of the Holy Spirit, who brings alive in new ways the graces of our baptism”(2003: 5)

Cardinal Suenen’s statement that “we were never supposed to live a Christian life without the full presence and power of the Holy Spirit” is apt (cited in Whitehead 2003: 6).

See Part 2 of this Essay



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