BAPTIZED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
by Harold Cohen, S.J.
Prior to His ascension Jesus told His apostles, "Before many days you
shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit." He added, "You shall receive
power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My
witnesses" (Acts 1:5-8). The Apostles prayed for the coming of the Holy
Spirit with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and a group of about one hundred and
twenty. On Pentecost they were "baptized with the Holy Spirit" and
were transformed into new creatures, bold witnesses for Christ.
Pentecost comes to each of us in the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism,
Confirmation, and Eucharist. In Baptism we receive the Holy Spirit and become
God’s children and members of the body of Christ. In Confirmation we receive a
new fullness of the Spirit and are empowered to serve the Church and bear
witness to Jesus.
Often we do not allow the Spirit we have received to be as active in us as He
wants to be. To use an analogy, He is like chocolate syrup poured into a glass
of milk--it goes to the bottom of the glass until stirred up. But when it is
stirred up, it permeates the milk and transforms it into something new. We can
learn how to "stir up" the Spirit--and how to receive more of
Him--from Jesus in the Gospels:
"If anyone thirst, let him come to Me, let him drink who believes in Me.
As the scripture has said, ‘Out of His heart shall flow rivers of living
water.’ Now He said this about the Spirit which those who believed in Him were
to receive" (John 7:37-39). "If you then, who are evil, know how to
give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give
the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luke 11:13)
The Lord teaches us that first we must thirst for God; we must desire more
and more of His Spirit. Then we must believe that Jesus is faithful to His
promises and will indeed give us His Holy Spirit. Finally, we must ask God for
the Holy Spirit. We must pray with perseverance, asking, seeking, knocking,
believing that "everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to
him who knocks it will be opened" (Luke 11:10). We can follow the example
of the early Church by praying for the Spirit in union with Mary and the
apostles as they did at the first Pentecost (see Acts 1:12-14).
What can we expect when we are "baptized with the Holy Spirit" ? We
can expect an immediate or gradual experience of deeper union with God, our
loving Father and with Jesus, our Lord and Friend; a fresh appreciation of
Scripture; a greater love for others and a desire for Christian fellowship; the
fuller presence in our lives of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace,
patience and more (see Galatians 5:22-23); the receptions of one or more of the
Charismatic gifts of the Spirit such as discernment, service, prophecy, praying
in tongues, healing (see 1 Corinthians 12-14). This gift of a new fullness of
the Holy Spirit is, I believe, the grace of our age. "Ask and it willbe
given to you!"
CONCERNING THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap
It is important to understand what the Renewal in the Spirit is all about. After the Second Vatican Council, many things in the Church’s life were renewed--the liturgy, pastoral care, canon law, the constitutions and dress of religious orders. Although all these things are important, they are only external things. Woe to us if we stop there and think the task is finished. It is not structure but souls that are important to God. “It is in men’s souls that the Church is beautiful,” writes St. Ambrose...and therefore it is in men’s souls that she must make herself beautiful.
God is Author and Power
The Renewal is a renewal in which God, not man, is the principal author “I, not you,” says God, “make all things new”(Rev. 21:5). “My Spirit--and He alone--may renew the face of the earth” (see Ps. 104:30). From the religious point of view, we tend to view things from a ptolemaic perspective: at the foundation are our efforts--organization, efficiency, reforms, and goodwill. These have the earth here as the center which God comes to strengthen and crown by His grace and our effort.
We must--at this point as the Word of God cries out--”give the power back to God” (Ps. 68:35) because “the power belongs to God” (Ps. 62:12). For too long we have usurped this power of His by managing it as if it were ours, as if it was up to us to “govern” the power of God. We have to totally change our perspective. That is, we have to acknowledge simply that without the Holy Spirit, we cannot do anything, not even say, “Jesus is Lord!” (1Cor. 12:3).
The Baptism in the Spirit is not a sacrament, but it is related to the sacraments of Christian initiation. The Baptism in the Spirit makes real and in a way renews Christian initiation. The primary relationship is with the sacrament of Baptism.
We believe that the Baptism in the Spirit makes real and revitalizes our Baptism. To understand how a sacrament which was received so many years ago, usually immediately after our birth, could suddenly come back to life and emanate so much energy, as often happens through the Baptism in the Spirit, it is important to look at our understanding of sacramental theology.
Catholic theology recognizes the concept of a valid but bound sacrament. A sacrament is called bound if the fruit that should accompany it remains bound because of certain blocks that prevent its effectiveness. Extreme examples of this are the sacrament of Matrimony and Holy Orders received in the state of mortal sin. In such circumstances these sacraments cannot grant any grace to people until the obstacle of sin is removed through Penance. Once this happens, the sacrament is said to live again, thanks to the indelible character and irrevocability of the gift of God. God remains faithful even if we are unfaithful because He cannot deny Himself (see Tim. 2:1-3).
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