Category: Featured Authors

Hungarian Conference: ‘Jesus is Life!’

By Deacon Zoli Kunszabo

Jim Murphy speaks at the Hungarian Catholic Charismatic Conference.

Arrival

We were looking forward to this weekend with Jim Murphy, then-president of International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, my fellow country coordinator from Renewal Ministries, and a dear friend, one of the most authentic Christians I have ever known.

After I picked Jim up at the airport, we had a late lunch together in my house and then left quickly for Miskolc, almost two-hundred miles northeast, where the National Conference was beginning the next day. My wife, Panni, escorted us and helped me in everything during the coming days. When we arrived at the General Arena, we joined the local organizers for a Holy Mass and prayer of preparation. After Mass, we went around the arena singing and praising, while a priest sanctified the place with holy water. Since some areas were filled with people not affiliated with our conference, we saw a lot of surprised faces. We simply smiled at them and prayed more!

National Conference

Jim’s first talk was a kerygmatic mission speech based on his own story of conversion, with the title Jesus is Life! With his characteristic sense of humour and pathos, Jim grabbed the hearts of the audience of approximately two-thousand people. After his speech, he asked everybody to dedicate their lives to Jesus. The sixty prayer pairs found their places around the floor in a big circle to welcome the newcomers. During the forty-five minutes allotted to this ministry time, they prayed with a few hundred men and women. After this very fruitful time, Jim continued with his second speech on the vision of spiritual growth in Christian life, Remain in Me! Jim continued his personal testimony, and he spoke more about a pilgrimage he made in which he crossed the entire United States on foot while carrying a big wooden cross.

He used this experience as a symbol of the Christian life. Most days, you don’t have strong experiences with God. You are on your road with the hard cross on your back, but God blesses your faithfulness! In that way, you will be purified and transformed. You should stay close to Jesus every day with the help of five tools: prayer, the Word of God, the sacraments, community, and a lifestyle of service. After this speech on such deep and real-life topics, we had a time of Adoration and prayer ministry.

After lunch, Jim gave a third talk, titled Bearing Remaining Fruits. He explained how it usually takes a long time to bear fruit that will remain and endure. The unfaithful and the unpatient will never see such fruit. Before the real fruits come forward, a time of purification is necessary. Without that, there is no place for God to put in his own works. The time of purification is very painful. God cuts out everything from us that is against His plans. Sometimes, He cuts off good things too (things we loved and honored as God’s works) to make room for new works He wants to accomplish in us. It is essential to trust in God during this period. If we draw back our permission from Him, He will step back, but our hearts will run wild, and we will miss the fruits. By remaining faithful during the wole process, we we will be steeped in the characteristics of the Holy Spirit! And then real fruit will be born in our character!

After this powerful message, Jim invited us to ask God about the things we should offer to Him to be pruned. What are these things? Will we really give Him permisson to do anything in us? We asked for the help of the Holy Spirit, and people once again went to the prayer pairs for help.

After the prayer time, Bishop László Varga, the honorary president of the Hungarian Catholic Charismatic Renewal, addressed a message to the whole Renewal to call for more and deeper unity. We are on the good path, but the Lord wants use to us like one non-divided body.

After a short break, the closing Holy Mass started with the main celebrant Archbishop Csaba Ternyák, the local bishop. Everybody noticed how happy he was watching the praise of the two-thousand participants. He encourgaed us to fulfill our mission calling with the help of the Holy Spirit, who is the main actor of the mission throughout the history of the Church. A very lively worship time started after the Holy Mass! We were really thankful to the Lord for this day filled with his wisdom and power!

Leadership Training Day

On the next day, we taught and ministered to 120 leaders and ministers of the Renewal with a leadership training day. We started with a Holy Mass in the chapel of the Fráter György Catholic High School, in downtown Miskolc. After that, we started our session with Jim. We asked him to answer our questions about what kind of hardships and temptations we will face while dedicating our lives to ministry. Jim gave three talks, and we had a long question-and-answer session at the end of the day. Jim shared his experiences as someone who has worked full-time for the Lord for more than forty years. He spoke about his experiences in building community, and the ways we can handle conflicts between leaders. He spoke a lot on the theme of prayer and the spiritual life of the leader. He was more than sincere and open for us—without a mask—and it touched our hearts. He shared with us that he has faced a cancer diagnosis three times in his life, and about his struggle of faith until reaching recovery. We understood that being a Charismatic leader does not free us from the hardships of life, but that with the Lord, we can overcome everything. Also, his message reminded us that God turns every bad thing to be a benefit for us. Every leader was really thankful for this day together.

Deacon Zoli Kunszabo is Renewal Ministries’ country coordinator for Hungary, Serbia, and Croatia. He is the founder-leader of the New Jerusalem Catholic Community, a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest, and the current president of the National Service Committee for Hungary’s Catholic Charismatic Renewal. He and his wife, Panni, live in Budapest, Hungary, and have five children and two grandchildren.

A Biblical Perspective on Marriage

This article originally appeared on the Archdiocese of Detroit’s website Unleash the Gospel.

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From beginning to end, the Bible is one great love story. The very first human words in Scripture are Adam’s outburst of joy at seeing Eve, his bride, for the first time: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” (Gn 2:23). The last words quoted in Scripture express the church’s longing for the coming of Christ, her heavenly bridegroom: “The Spirit and the bride say, Come!” (Rv 22:17). In the middle of the Bible is the Song of Songs, a mystical poem about the romance between God and his people. From the Garden of Eden to the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb, the story of salvation is a story of spousal love.

It is no wonder God takes marriage very seriously. The book of Genesis reveals that God established marriage from the beginning as an essential part of his plan for human beings. On the day he created man and woman, God gave them the very first commandment: “Be fertile and multiply” (Gn 1:28); that is, come together in a physical union that reflects a personal union on every level of their being — a union so potent that it will be the way new human life is generated.

Genesis 2 teaches the same truth in a different way. God first creates the man, then remarks, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.” This affirms what we already know instinctively: Human beings are made for relationship. We cannot flourish without love.

God then forms a woman from Adam’s rib and brings her to him like the father of the bride. When Adam sees Eve, it is a moment of self-discovery. He recognizes that she is his equal, a personlike himself, to whom he can give himself as a gift. Yet she is not a mere replica; she and he have physical differences that are evidently designed for union. Anatomically, hormonally, emotionally and psychologically, they are perfectly complementary. The woman, unlike the animals, can receive and freely reciprocate Adam’s gift of himself, and they can form a covenant of love that is faithful, fruitful and lifelong.

Their covenant of self-giving love is expressed and enacted in their sexual union, when the two become “one body” (Gn 2:24).

So why is Eve called Adam’s “helper” — because she is supposed to cook and clean for him? In fact, the Bible uses the word “helper” most often for God himself (see, for example, Psalms 54:6). The woman is the man’s helper because she helps him fulfill the deepest purpose of his life: to give himself in love. They both help each other realize that the very meaning of their existence is to be a gift.

Contiue reading here.

Family Life in the Domestic Church

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This article originally appeared on the Archdiocese of Detroit’s website Unleash the Gospel.

Thirty-three years ago, united in the sacrament of marriage, Peter and I began an exciting and mysterious adventure. We charted a course for our life that wasn’t based on romantic feelings or wishful thinking. Although we had financial, career and family goals, we had one principal aim that informed the rest. Our deepest desire was to live with God forever and to help each other, our family and those God placed in our lives to get to heaven. This objective may sound cliché, abstract or in the very distant future, but it is actually concrete and practical, lived out each day in the context of marriage and family life.

The family is the primary social unit in which life in Christ and the life of the church are experienced and lived. Therefore, the church refers to the family as the domestic churchThe Catechism of the Catholic Church beautifully describes the Christian family and our role as parents:

  • The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith.For this reason, the family home is rightly called ‘the domestic church,’ a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity … It is a community of faith, hope, and charity.” (CCC, 1666, 2204)
  • Parents are the principal and first educators of their children.In this sense, the fundamental task of marriage and family is to be at the service of life.” (CCC, 1653)
  • The home is the first school of Christian life and ‘a school for human enrichment.’Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous — even repeated — forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life.” (CCC, 1657)

Continue reading here.

‘Walk by the Spirit’ in the Year Ahead

This letter originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ January 2020 newsletter.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Ralph has asked me to share a few thoughts about a resolution we can make that has the potential to yield abundant fruit in the year ahead!

This is the time of year that many people make new resolutions, most of which are attempts to break old, less-healthy habits, and to begin to build positive ones. Often the resolutions are focused on getting healthy, developing the right eating habits, exercising more consistently, living a more balanced life, and in some cases, attempting to align behavior and thought-life with higher values and goals.

I’d like to challenge all of us to make a life-changing resolution: to embrace St. Paul’s exhortation to “walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:25). To “walk by the Spirit” means to have fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and in its simplest expression, fellowship with the Spirit means to talk to the Holy Spirit.

That all may seem obvious, but let me ask you a few questions. When was the last time you spoke to the Holy Spirit? Can you recognize His voice? Do you live with a vivid realization that God the Holy Spirit dwells in you, “that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, which you have from God?” (1 Cor 6:19).

I’m not asking the question of whether you believe the dogmatic truth that the Holy Spirit dwells in you; I’m asking if you have a growing, maturing relationship with Him? A simple way to answer that question is to ask yourself whether you talk to the Holy Spirit on a regular, daily basis? I’m not asking the question to judge or criticize but to help us honestly take stock of whether or not we are walking in the full relationship with the Holy Spirit.

That’s important because it is the key to a healthy, vital Christian life. That relationship is what enables us to walk in virtue, to come into the promises of God, and to begin to experience the “full joy” and “full life” that Jesus promised. These graces and promises come to life in us through our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

This kind of relationship with the Holy Spirit, one that is personal and deeply rewarding, is possible because He is a person! Think about it: God the Holy Spirit dwells in you—the third person of the Trinity! For what purpose? To reveal the Father and the Son to you, personally.  St. Paul reminds us so beautifully that the “Spirit himself witnesses to our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16).

Stop to consider what’s being said here: God himself lives in you—within the deepest part of you, in your spirit. The Holy Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, is at work in you! He comes to bear witness to your inner man, to bring convincing power to your spirit, to help you see, and to give you experiential knowledge and unshakable conviction that you are a child of God.

The Holy Spirit brings so much to us: He advocates for us, He counsels us, He literally makes us “born again,” a new creation. He is the power that makes us children of God, the one who leads us to all truth and who anoints us to carry on Jesus’ mission. Above all, He is the down payment, the first installment, the “guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (Eph 1:14)—of “an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and unfading” (1 Pt 1:4). He enables us to “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4).

Let’s resolve to set our minds on the One who dwells within. Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is within you” (Lk 17:21). It’s so easy to fall into the habit of thinking that God is “out their somewhere,” distant. And we try, through our prayers, to get Him interested, hoping that He will hear us, that He will draw near. Too often, we forget the fact that He couldn’t be closer to us, and that all we need to do is to turn to Him in the quiet of our hearts. That is where He is, always, every day, around the clock. He longs to meet you there, to talk with you.

To walk by the Spirit, we must talk to the Spirit. That’s how we grow. Even more, however—we must listen to the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t speak audibly—at least not very often–but He does make Himself known in ways we can understand: through subtle impressions; inspired thoughts; and encouragements, perhaps even the words or actions of others, all of which release new life and power within. To hear Him, we need to seek Him, to listen quietly for his “still, small voice” in the silence of our hearts. If we seek to engage Him, we will find Him; if we listen attentively, we will begin to hear and recognize his voice. The power He releases is often small, but real, and it produces the fruit of genuine transformation.

To talk with Him isn’t complicated; it’s simple. It may be difficult at first because we’re not used to it. Begin with small steps. Make a point to set aside a few minutes four or five times a day, just to speak with Him. Engage Him with simple words: “Holy Spirit, I love you.” “Please help me hear and understand You.” “Thank You for the way You love me.” “Help me understand what You think and what You feel about me, my life, and my family.”  “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Let the words flow from your heart, not in formal, lengthy prayers, but with childlike simplicity. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

If we resolve to go deeper in the Spirit—to engage Him from the heart on a daily basis, developing a more consistent and simple habit of prayer, He will change us. This is the place of healing and transformation, the place of freedom and life, the place where we begin to touch the full joy Jesus promised.

This is the only kind of resolution that ultimately will bring the personal transformation we long for, a transformation that is strong enough to bring healing to a deeply divided, confused, and lost world.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful ones, and enkindle the fire of your love!

Resting in Confident Expectation

This article originally appeared in The Proclaimer newsletter for Tom Edwards Evangelistic Society, Inc.

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By Tom Edwards, Renewal Ministries’ Country Coordinator

“Be still and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.” (Ps 46:11)

The verse above is taken from a Psalm that begins by speaking of an earth that is being shaken, waters roaring, mountains quaking nations raging, kingdoms tottering. It is a picture of chaos and confusion and would certainly find an application for our world in the present moment. Yet, the Psalm is a song of confidence in the absolute sovereignty of a God who provides security in the midst of chaos and peace in the times of confusion.

The command to “be still” is an imperative, a translation of a Hebrew word meaning to be weak, to let go, to cause yourself to release your grip.

As the Israelites stood at the edge of the Red Sea with the waters before them and the enemy pressing in behind them, Moses said: “Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the Lord will win for you today. The Lord himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still” (Ex 14:13a, 14). Again, when Joshua was leading the people into the promised land, it was necessary to cross the Jordan River—which was raging at ultimate flood stage. The priestly bearers of the Ark waded into the river and the waters flowing from upstream halted, backing up in a solid mass for a very great distance. As all Israel crossed over on dry ground, the priests bearing the ark stood motionless on dry ground in the bed of the Jordan. The were completely “still” until the whole nation had passage (Jo 2:14-17).

The concept of “being still” does not necessarily imply that one is to be immobile. But it does mean that in times of trial and trouble, in times when burdens are overwhelming, when circumstances are beyond control, then step back—take your hands off—and relax! It’s time to wait upon God. Someone once said “He who waits on God loses no time.”

Note that the command to “be still” is linked to the command “and know.” Indeed there is no experiential “knowing” until one becomes “still.” Knowing is not just an intellectual assent to God, but rather a practical spiritual and emotional confidence in He who is your God! He is the ruler of all the kingdoms of this earth and beyond. He is the almighty Creator and ruler of the universe. He is the Lord of our minutest care and our most complex quandaries. We surrender to He who is our refuge and strength, our ever-present help in time of trouble. We acknowledge Him as the ultimate source of all healing. We relinquish our trust in self and abandon our own clever designs so that we might come to know the all-sufficiency of a glorious God.

This does not mean that we shirk our responsibility or that we cease to take the initiative to live out the duties of life. The Lord expects us to utilize the gifts and talents He has given us to full measure. However, personal initiative will never be an adequate substitute for reliance upon God.

The life of a Christian involves what might sound like a contradiction: “active rest.” We find the “still place” in Him and our labors flow out of that rest. We also must be cautious not to fall into the trap of “presumption”:

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit”—you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead you should say, “If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.” But now you are boasting in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is a sin. (Jas 4:13-17)

Yes, life will have its battles. King David had to slay many giants after his youthful encounter with Goliath. David lost some of his battles, especially when yielding to temptations of the flesh that entangled him in a downward spiral of deadly sins. Yet, in the end he was found to be a man after the heart of God—”the apple of God’s eye.” How did he do it? The answer to that question certainly lies in the sincere repentance that enabled him to pen the following immortal words while resting in confident expectation:

“The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name. Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage. You set a table before me as my enemies watch; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.” (Ps 23)